New Performing Arts Center Provides Opportunity For Southwestern College


Photo by MG Perez

Above: Dance students practice at Southwestern College’s new performing arts center in Chula Vista on September 8, 2021.

The new fall semester opens up new opportunities for students at Southwestern College’s Chula Vista campus. A $ 66 million modern performing arts center is now open. It was funded by bonds approved by local voters in 2016.

The state-of-the-art 41,000 square foot building houses an auditorium that can accommodate over 500 people and a smaller black box for more intimate performances. The Performing Arts Center is also filled with classrooms and modern dance studios.

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Mary Jo Horvath is a seasoned dance teacher who taught at Southwestern College for 31 years. She uses her classroom studio to train and cultivate the distinct and diverse talents of the South Bay community.

“Some come with folk training, some come with Polynesian training, belly dancing, Latin dancing and you’re going to have those same people in a ballet, tap or musical theater class,” she said.

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The new facility and improved resources are a boon to students and the community. Ninety percent of the college’s student body comes from historically minority and marginalized groups. Almost 70% of them are Hispanic.

Student Edwin Anthony Rodriguez wants to become a choreographer and maybe one day start his own dance studio. Professor Horvath’s classroom is a place to launch his dream and honor his legacy.

“English was not my first language, I first learned Spanish,” Rodriguez said. “I learned English at the age of five. So I have a lot of Mexican descent and I really appreciate it. Can really get in touch with my roots.

The first student production in the new space is an evening of two one-act plays that reflect the untold stories of the Filipino American community. “The Fire In Me” and “Hand Under Hand” by Castro’s Thelma Virata, with music and lyrics by Emily Rutherford, will perform at the Performing Arts Center from October 20 to October 29, 2021.

The San Diego Opera and the San Diego Symphony are both in negotiations with Southwestern College to rent the space in the future.


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Photo by MG Perez

MG Perez

Education journalist

opening quotesclosing quotesAs a former special education teacher, I look forward to connecting with you and bringing back stories that are often underestimated in education. #We are better together

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