AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – After years of fundraising and evolutions in shape and location, the AJ Swope Performance Plaza will be dedicated to its namesake on Friday as it opens at Arts in the Sunset on Plains Boulevard and Western Street.

The Friends of AJ Swope said that the dedication event will start with a private reception at 5 p.m. and be followed by a 7 p.m. public performance by singer-songwriter Zac Wilkerson, who was a close friend of the late musician and businessman AJ Swope.

According to the Friends of AJ Swope, the nonprofit that partnered with Arts in the Sunset to construct the plaza at the historic Sunset Center shopping mall. The plaza’s construction was originally announced in September 2022, and features a large outdoor stage with an attached green room, three dressing rooms, restrooms, a dance floor, a ticket booth, a built-in bar, and space for tables and chairs.

Swope, as described by the nonprofit, was known around the High Plains region for his music, his work in television news and as the executive director for the Class 4 Winds & Renewables nonprofit. While other tributes have been made in his name since his death in 2013, such as the naming of an electric substation, the nonprofit said that the musical venue will stand as an ideal way to memorialize his love of music and Amarillo’s music community.

“AJ was always open to talking to and helping out the next artist trying to make a name for himself,” said Craig Vaughn, a member of the Friends of AJ Swope board of directors, “Having a stage on which Amarillo’s up-and-coming artists can hone their craft in front of a live audience is a very important piece of their careers. AJ truly cared about Amarillo’s local and live music scene and this stage will guarantee that his passion for it will live on.”

Officials with the Arts in the Sunset expressed that they were honored and excited to be involved with the project as an addition to its complex and the Cultural District of Amarillo.

“The Arts in the Sunset staff and board are humbled and honored to be able to memorialize AJ Swope in this way,” said Rachel Flores, executive director of Arts in the Sunset. “Having a performance plaza of this caliber allows us to broaden the scope of our programming to include the performing arts, which further supports the arts community as a whole in Amarillo. AJ was a man with extraordinary talents and a fierce love for his community, and we hope that by bearing his name, this Plaza too will come to know and share the extraordinary.”

While celebrating the dedication of the new plaza, the Friends of AJ Swope noted that it will continue to engage in fundraising and organizing efforts for other projects, including the Texas Panhandle First Responders Memorial in downtown Amarillo. That project was approved unanimously by the Amarillo City Council in August 2022, with a location at the time designated for South Polk Street.

Further information on the Friends of AJ Swope organization and its projects can be found on its website.

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