Oklahoma School for the Visual & Performing Arts eyes Tulsa Public Schools Roosevelt building

TULSA - The Tulsa Public Schools will host a public meeting Thursday to discuss the potential sale of the Roosevelt Elementary School building, which could be transformed into the Oklahoma School for the Visual & Performing Arts.

The father-son team of David and Coleman Downing are leading the effort to purchase the building, which was closed during the district's Project Schoolhouse Efficiency Initiative.

The school, constructed in 1926, currently houses TPS programs and offices, but if transformed, would offer an array of classes centered around the visual and performing arts.

"We'll have visual arts, which would cover drawing and painting, photography, video work. Performing arts, which would be orchestral music and choral, and we would have ballet and modern dance and acting and creative writing. Pretty much the whole spectrum of the arts," said Coleman Downing, who was inspired to create this learning atmosphere based on his summers at the Oklahoma Arts Institute.

The Oklahoma School for the Visual & Performing Arts would house 200 students from throughout the state for their junior and senior years.

"It's something that's under appreciated here in the state, in terms of funding from the state and from schools around the area. People don't put a lot of stock into it, but people don't realize how important it really is. I think that the best way to spread awareness is to fund more projects and have a place where kids can come and learn what they want to learn," Coleman explained.

Oklahoma House Bill 1737, signed into law in 2009, creates a public-private partnership for the school. Over the next year, David Downing explained, he, his son and their team, will need to raise between $20 and $25 million for the building purchase, renovations and equipment. Then, they'll need to seek operational appropriations for the school from the legislature.

"It's incumbent upon us, the school, to raise private financing to build, renovate, equip and prepare the facility for the kids. It's the responsibility of the state to fund the ongoing operation of the school through appropriation, which we will do every year hopefully for the next 50 to 100 years," David said.

The Downings hope to open the school in the next three to four years.

Community members can share their thoughts about the potential sale Thursday, April 4 from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. in the Roosevelt Elementary School gym.

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