Hundreds gather at the dedication of the West Building at South Side Studios in South Dallas to honor the late Jeff West
By Eric Sheffield
Before Jeff West, there was no Dallas International Film Festival. Before Jeff West, Dealey Plaza was not a national landmark. Before Jeff West, Dallas had not returned to Dallas. Before Jeff West, Dallas was a very different place.
“Jeff’s creative energy is viewed throughout many parts of Dallas,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, “As the city comes into its own, we have to give much of our thanks to Mr. West.”
On Friday, Sept. 21 at 5:00 p.m., more than 100 people gathered at South Side Studios on Lamar Street for the dedication of The West Building, which honors the late Jeff West, an avid arts activist and community developer in Dallas.
West passed away suddenly in May at the age of 54.
“On top of the remembering Jeff West, the dedication will be a bookend on the improvements that have been made to the studios,” said Eric Jasso, a production assistant for the television show Dallas.
These improvements include a complete set of production offices above the studio, a new sign leading into the parking lot, and a mural painted on a nearby wall.
The South Side Studios will also serve as a meeting ground for the production of the new Dallas TV series. Shooting began on Monday, Sept. 24.
“Jeff West is the reason that the new Dallas came here, and he’s the reason that it’s staying here,” concluded Jasso.
West supported not only Dallas the tv show, but the city of Dallas as well. “He was a brilliant man,” said Larry Hagman, the actor who plays JR on Dallas. “He donated the land that Dallas used to build the police department on.”
The police department wasn’t Mr. West’s only contribution to the city, either.
Throughout his 30 years as a member of the arts community in Dallas, he served as the executive director of the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, the managing director of the Dallas Theatre Center and the director of the Sixth Floor Museum.
“He was very active in the interests of the city of Dallas,” said Nigel Brown, president of Structural Studio, and an associate of West’s. “He worked mainly in the background, but he was extremely effective at making improvements around the city, especially in the arts.”
When he died, West was vice president of Matthews Southwest, a real-estate development company that is responsible for many improvements in the city, including several blocks along Lamar and The Cedars neighborhood. Locations like the brand new NYLO Dallas South Side Hotel, the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel and, of course, the South Side Studios are among their development efforts.
“You cannot replace him,” said Jack Matthews, president of Matthews Southwest. “His ability to take on work was phenomenal. People often joked that Jeff put the ‘West’ in Matthews Southwest.”
Jeff’s son, Jeff West Jr. saw his dad as someone who could bring dreams to life.
“It always starts as a small idea,” Jeff Jr. said, “and always ends with him bringing it through to fruition.”
After Major Rawlings declared the dedication with a city proclamation, attendees entered the studio to enjoy food and drinks and to share their favorite Jeff stories.
“He would want this to be a celebration,” said Dedie Leahy, a friend of West’s.
In life, Jeff West was described as a caring man who had people laughing within minutes of meeting him. Even in death, he’s still managing to put smiles on the faces of many.
“In short, my dad was awesome,” Jeff Jr. said with a laugh.