Introducing the Glendale Performing Arts Center

John Wayne’s name has been removed from the auditorium on the GHS campus

Introducing+the+Glendale+Performing+Arts+Center

Maxim Arutunian, Staff Writer

In March of 2021, the John Wayne Performing Arts Center (JWPAC) was renamed to the Glendale Performing Arts Center (GPAC) because of the recent controversy surrounding an interview John Wayne gave in 1971 with Playboy Magazine.

According to Glendale High School Principal, Dr. Benjamin Wolf, not too many people were aware of the Playboy article until recently, and very few students really knew anything about John Wayne himself.  However, because the article had resurfaced online, the Glendale Unified School District began receiving requests to rename the JWPAC.

At that point GUSD Superintendent, Dr. Vivian Ekchian, asked Dr. Wolf to come up with a process to solve this problem. The idea came to “talk to our students, our parents, and faculty and staff here,” said Dr. Wolf. During a PTSA meeting, there was a presentation in which parents were given a copy of the Playboy article so that they could read and “form their own opinion.” Ultimately, the parents voted in support of renaming the auditorium.

The same process was applied to all of the GHS faculty and students. But as Dr. Wolf stated, “it was more complex” with students.  At first, each third period class read the article and had a discussion, and then a student representative from each class was chosen to join a Student Senate Forum to make a recommendation on renaming the auditorium.   

After that, members of the Glendale branch of the Student Coalition Advocating for Black Lives (SCABL), were invited to a forum to voice their opinions as well. In the end, both the GHS faculty and the student body voted in favor of the renaming. Dr. Wolf shared that “as my role as principal, it wasn’t my job to share my opinion with people, so when I went through this process, I did not share my opinion.” He said that he “tried to present both sides” of the issue. 

Dr. Wolf further stated, “The position that I am in, the same thing for our Superintendent, we don’t want to influence people’s ideas until they have to formulate their own opinions. But if you are asking me now, I think given the things that have happened in our society over the last couple of years, especially at the time when George Floyd was first killed, and now even more so when we’ve seen the trial results, I really think it was the right thing to do.”

Dr. Ekchian also shared her experience. She said that she first “received an official request from SCABL” in September of last year. “I have also heard a couple of months prior to that from the community that there had been discussions around the changing of the name of the auditorium,” she said. 

On the matter of the whole process Dr. Ekchian shared that it “was done really well,” because it “involved student input, faculty input, staff input, and parent input.” She also commends the fact that the vote to rename the auditorium was anonymous and no one felt pressured to vote for either option.  

“The student leaders had a chance to discuss it and there was a student senate discussion and a vote,” Dr. Ekchian said, “So it was participatory and was organic at the school level. It wasn’t top-down and was thoughtful with all voices being heard at the school site.”

Dr. Ekchian believes that this process was important, because everyone involved “educated themselves about the article that was brought to their attention, and they also used the restorative practices coach [Ms. Electra Stafford], who was trained  to work with the Associated Student Body leaders to have a discussion and a facilitation.” 

“That way they were able to express themselves and ultimately make a decision,” she said. “I thought that was really thoughtful and meaningful that we as a community always have to come together to make good decisions about what matters to us and what we stand for.”  When it comes to her opinion about the renaming of the auditorium, Dr. Ekchian said, “Obviously, having learned about the article, I am pleased that the school no longer carries John Wayne’s name.”

Senior Class President, and Explosion Staff Writer, Arline Daniali, also agrees with the renaming. “Too many landmarks and areas are named after people of ill intent,” she said. “While there is a lot of controversy on renaming these landmarks, we need to remember that if the person does not represent the ideals we hope to give off, then that person should not represent the landmark or building. Renaming our auditorium shows us the essential move by our school to represent something more, and something better.”

The next time that you drive down Broadway, you will notice that the name John Wayne has been removed from our auditorium and has been replaced with the Glendale Performing Arts Center. Hopefully, this will help to settle this controversy once and for all.