We’re building a new school of the arts in Santa Ana. It’s anything but straightforward, especially as we try to wrap our heads around the skills, attitudes, and mindsets today’s artists and designers need to thrive. How do you prepare a freelance artist, an aspiring filmmaker, or a precocious dancer to translate their talent and art into a sustainable way of life? How do you deliberately develop artists with a social media presence as commanding as their stage presence?
We don’t have a lot of high school models to go on. I’m not just talking about a traditional arts conservatory. If we were primarily after a program that prepares students for dance companies, philharmonics, and established theatre troupes, then a traditional arts school would be more than adequate. Heck, Santa Ana is already home to a highly regarded art conservatory (albeit not necessarily one primarily focused on the youth of Santa Ana).
Of course, artists are highly skilled workers whose preparation is dependent on high standards of quality and instructional rigor. I’m a big fan of conservatory art schools who believes we need more, and not less of them. Yet somehow, and perhaps more particularly in the context of students living in poverty, the conservatory model does not seem like enough.
We’re thinking about preparing entrepreneurial artists. Artists whose modes of expression don’t yet have a broad audience. We’re talking about art whose destination will be new media platforms, whose reach goes beyond privileged concert halls or hushed arts galleries. We want graduates who are as adept at building relationships and creating niche markets as they are writing a screenplay or harmonizing a melody.
Quite frankly, we don’t completely know how to do this. We don’t come with all the answers. What we do bring is commitment. We’ve brought together our most talented faculty, partnered with professional arts organizations, and cultivated pathways into post-secondary arts programs. We’re prepared to develop a personalized, multi-disciplinary course of study for each of our admitted students. All of this comes with the goal of preparing graduates with the aptitude to fashion a life that allows a full expression of their artistic vision.