The new performing arts center at Tipton-Rosemark Academy used to be the gymnasium and before that it was the cafeteria.
The 64-year-old building has been adaptable and until the remake as a performing arts center for the private school in North Shelby County those who used it over the years also had to be adaptable.
“It was used for a gym up until they built the new gym in 2000. Then it was used as the gym and the performing arts center. It was still a gym, though,” said John Scott, the school’s headmaster. “The worst thing about it was when they ran the heaters, which were those big old blower heaters that hung from the ceiling. You had to turn them off because you couldn’t hear. The acoustics were like a gym. But when you turned them off, it got very cold in there quick because there wasn’t a lick of insulation in the whole building.”
The school considered demolishing the building but opted instead for a $2 million remake.
Scott described it as the “center point” of the campus.
The only signs of the building’s former life as a gym are the hardwood floors. The acoustics are more appropriate for lines from the center’s first production, “Rehearsal For Murder,” which closed Sunday than a referee’s whistle.
“It’s all for the arts now,” Scott said. “We have a workshop that our visual arts or graphic arts can work in. We’ll use it for both, but mostly for now it is performing arts. We wanted a place to develop that talent and for them to perform in. Training is very important.”
Scott hopes the center will be used by community groups other than those connected directly to the school. It’s also open for bookings for weddings and similar events.
“There’s nothing like this around that I know of in this area. The closest thing is in Bartlett,” he said, referring to the Bartlett Performing Arts Center. “Tipton County doesn’t have anything like this. Millington has the civic center but this is specifically for the performing arts.”
The performing arts center renovation caps four years of construction on the campus including a new high school that replaced the old Rosemark School – the first public school in North Shelby County – built in 1912.
It and the surrounding property were bought by Tipton-Rosemark Academy in 1970 when the private school expanded to include grades 9-12.
The academy’s elementary school recently added 12,000 square feet and in 2000 the middle grade school building opened. The campus now has room for 1,000 students, room to grow from the school’s current enrollment of approximately 650 students.
“Everything we’ve got here now is new,” Scott said as he talked of renovations to locker and dressing rooms used for athletic events as a next goal.