‘AJ would’ve loved this’: AJ Swope Performance Plaza to impact Amarillo’s cultural district

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 9:19 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Arts in the Sunset and Friends of AJ Swope are celebrating the culmination of a years-long project coming to fruition, the grand opening of the AJ Swope Performing Arts Plaza.

A year after his passing, friends of AJ Swope started working on a perfect tribute. The AJ Swope Performing Arts Plaza not only honors Swope’s passion for music but also celebrates Amarillo’s music community.

Wes Reeves, a member of the Friends of AJ Swope board of directors says, it’s not just about a grand opening; it’s about honoring a legacy and invigorating a community.

“Because AJ, one of the things he is really known for was inspiring and encouraging people to get on a stage. He himself had done that, someone had encouraged him. If you talk to a lot of the musicians around here that are about that age they’ll say AJ was the one that told me to get up there on stage and just do it,” says Reeves.

Reeves says it’s not just about the performances, it’s about revitalizing the cultural district.

“I’ve noticed a lot of younger people are moving back into this area. It’s a diverse area there are a lot of great places to eat, things to do, and so just for the economic development of an existing part of town, this is fantastic. We need more and more of these types of things and for the arts community we have a lot of places you can perform of course but in terms of a smaller venue that’s less formal, this is ideal for this,” says Reeves.

Concerts, weddings, fundraising events, and more, this venue, nestled within the Sunset Center, is set to become a vibrant hub for the arts.

“This is going to be a really bustling area again so if you go back to the 1960s and 70s this was a really happening place and then it died in many ways. Well, we’re bringing it back so this is a part of it. You’ve got to have that arts component and not just the visual arts in this case but also the performing arts and that’s what we’ll have here,” explains Reeves.

AJ Swope was known for many things. His work in the news, as the Executive Director for Class 4 Winds and Renewables, and for his stage presence, inspiring others to perform. Reeves believes he would have appreciated this.

“He was always pushing people to do their best and I think this is one place we can encourage people to come in and do your best,” says Reeves.

“AJ would’ve loved this. He would have thought it was so neat that we are giving the next generation of talent a place to play and perform and kind of hone their skills. He would have loved being surrounded by all this other creativity,” says Craig Vaughn, a member of the Friends of AJ Swope Board of Directors.

The plaza aims to not only broaden performing arts opportunities but also boost economic development in the area.

“Hopefully, it’s a place for tourists to come, hopefully, it shows up as a little balloon on your Google map and people go hey let’s go check out the AJ Swope; let’s go find out what that performance plaza is all about,” says Vaughn.

The AJ Swope performance plaza is now available for public rentals and is already seeing demand in the near future. For more information on future events click here.