On Wednesday, September 8, The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) opened its doors. According to this news story on Chicago Public Radio, Chicago is the last major American city to create a public high school dedicated to the arts. That’s hard to believe, in a city with cultural institutions such as The Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Joffrey Ballet, and the Goodman Theatre. I’m a violin teacher, and I’ve had students who were either interested in pursuing a career in music or simply wanted to play in a school orchestra. I was frustrated because there were very few public high schools in the city of Chicago which had orchestras, and none with a pre-college fine arts training program. ChiArts will fill a much-needed void.
Here’s some background information about the history of the school from the ChiArts website:
In 2004, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust convened a group of approximately ten arts and education organizations to discuss the issue of diversity within mid- to large-sized arts organizations in Chicago and specifically the lack of representation in this landscape by professional artists representing the many ethnic communities who call Chicago home.
The Diversity Working Group (DWG) surveyed the Chicago landscape to identify existing educational resources for aspiring young artists… Incredible richness within the existing resources in Chicago’s many excellent privately funded community music schools, youth orchestras, university music programs and major cultural institutions were evident. What was not found was a public institution that would provide a comprehensive learning environment with superior training at the high school level… This age group stood out as the one area of greatest need and also that with greatest potential for positive impact.
The school is targeting not only students who already have extensive training but also those who have undeveloped talent. Students will participate in a rigorous program including five hours of academic classes, three hours of arts training in their major area, and one to four hours of rehearsal/practice per day. The school day begins at 8:00 a.m. and concludes at 5:00 p.m.
Even if some of these students don’t end up as professional artists, the school will have created a fresh, more diverse community with an appreciation for the fine arts. Those of us in the arts often hear that our audience is graying, and many fear that it will soon disappear altogether. Let’s hope that the creation of schools like these will fill our performance venues, galleries, and museums for years to come.
Images Sources: Ayelie and Cwalker71