A Memphis-based charter network interested in opening more than just schools will cut the ribbon Saturday on its newest endeavor, a performing arts center beside its recently relocated middle school in southeast Memphis.
Gestalt Community Schools is seeking to revitalize the Hickory Hill neighborhood by opening its Performing Arts Center at Eden Square next to Gestalt’s Power Center Academy Middle School, a charter school launched in 2008 under Shelby County Schools. The school’s new campus is about a mile from its old location.
The performing arts center will partner with local arts groups to provide drama and performance opportunities for students, along with family-oriented entertainment for the community, according to a Gestalt news release.
“This project is a true ‘gestalt,’ which is an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts,” said CEO Yetta Lewis. “… This ribbon-cutting is a visual catalyst to illustrate the power of school, church, and local government to revitalize a community.”
The nonprofit organization uses an approach different from most charter operators and seeks to develop its schools alongside larger community revitalization projects. Gestalt operates six schools under Shelby County Schools and Tennessee’s Achievement School District and is partnering with local churches, the City of Memphis, Habitat for Humanity and Power Center Community Development Corp. to build affordable housing, a wellness center, a playground, athletic fields and retail space in the Eden Square redevelopment, which broke ground last year.
Gestalt’s community-focused approach has caught the attention of some big names. Chan Zuckerberg, wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, sent a representative from her institute to meet with the network’s leaders and teachers in July, calling their efforts an “inspiring endeavor” in a Facebook post recapping the visit.
Gestalt originally planned to open a school at the massive midtown development known as Crosstown Concourse but pulled out of the deal last year, opening the door for a group of local stakeholders to obtain a charter to open Crosstown High School.