Douglas Anderson School of the Arts

by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012

“Douglas Anderson was our bus driver,” she said. “He was very kind and very patient.” In 2010, Newsweek magazine ranked Douglas Anderson School of the Arts number 31 on its annual list of best high schools in the nation.

Douglas Anderson died when he was 52 years old in 1936. In 1945, The South Jacksonville School, the only school for black students on the Southside of town, was renamed Douglas Anderson School. He had helped build it and run it, had even driven the school buses. In 1968, it became a junior college campus. In 1985, the school reopened, after having been shuttered, as Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

Left from Philips Highway onto Wishart Road, on the right a bright yellow stucco building with a red metal roof functions as a “crab shack,” behind it a dirt lot auto garage fills up with car chassis, and on the left at the curve of Wishart into Sandlin Street is an old, small brick and block church with a steeple—Faith Temple Fellowship Church.

Oak trees, chain-link fences, car bodies, 100 year-old wood frame houses.

Where Sandlin immediately but gently curves into San Diego Road, there’s a tiny wood frame box of a house, painted pink, 600 square feet.

Underneath Interstate-95, the school with its stages and art rooms and sculpture garden arrives. An 11 year-old girl dances here for the Summer Dance Intensive. She pliés and jetés across the concert stage this evening and dances like some spirit caught existing just at the point of not having existed, and her father had always wanted to write something as beautiful as her.

He thinks of the touch of something unnamable in the air in the change from summer to autumn, how that unnamable moment is where truth and beauty live.

The beautiful and the true is what cannot be approached, cannot be fathomed. When something does approach beauty and truth, then, it contains a sadness, since it approaches things it cannot approach. “That is why,” he thinks later that night, “when you danced, we cried.”

Like a virus, the beautiful and the true live in you, live on you like a parasite. Or you yourself are the beautiful and the true, host organism to the other you. Always has something beautiful and true lived inside you and determined that you bring it into the open. Some viruses shrivel up their patients like emaciated Jesus Christs. Your virus will evolve you stage by stage into the winged sibyl you already are.

And Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” contains its own Claire de Lune and Debussy’s and Verlaine’s, and the moonlight lobes out across the town like the leaves of ragweed or the feet of a polydactyl cat.

In the school sculpture garden, a stalagmite of old sewing machines stands hard and metal in the devastating summer heat and the sweet cool summer rain and the bone-bitter winter cold. The strong, elegant old machines have been fused and soldered together, as though they were themselves fabrics stitched together in a crazy-quilt, metal metaphor of connectivity.