On Saturday, April 17th, the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts (known as "Arts High") is holding a gala celebration to commemorate its 25th anniversary as one of the country's leading training ground in the performing and visual arts. LA notables like Natalie Cole, Arts High alumnus Josh Groban, Barry Manilow, Marilyn Horne, Bob Newhart, composer John Williams, architect/designer Frank Gehry will gather at the Ahmanson Theatre to pay tribute to the school's accomplishments and raise funds to continue the delivery of excellent arts education in Los Angeles, despite the looming threat of budget cutbacks at both the state and local level.
Founded in 1985, the tuition-free public school is run by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in partnership with and on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). The program offers a specialized program combining college-preparatory academic instruction and conservatory-style training in the visual and performing arts. Alumni include such future stars as Josh Groban, actors Jenna Elfman and Anthony ("Law and Order") Anderson, Fergie of The Black-Eyed Peas, playwright Josefina Lopez, Corbin ("High School Musical") Bleu, Alvin Ailey dancer Matthew Rushing, and visual artist Kehinde Wiley.
Tickets are still available for the anniversary gala, which will honor Dr. Edward Kantor, Ginny Mancini, Barry Manilow and Flora Thornton.
The school's current Principal, George Simpson, an arts educator with bachelor and Masters degrees in music, gave LAObserved a quick Q&A in time for the upcoming fundraiser.
Why is LACHSA honoring Barry Manilow at the anniversary celebration?
Barry Manilow has been a friend of LACHSA since the early days of LACHSA. He made repeated visits to the school, he donated instruments. We thought it only fitting that, at our 25th anniversary, we recognize and honor him for all that he has done over the years.
How has arts education impacted at least one student and why?
Here is an excerpt of something that addresses your prompt. I recently sent this to LACHSA families:
After a few moments in our hallways one immediately notices that LACHSA is very different than other schools. The tensions that divide students at other schools do not exist to the same degree at LACHSA. At LACHSA we see acceptance, not mere tolerance, but acceptance; our students feel like they have a home, a place, a community.
Many students have remarked that before coming to LACHSA, their school experience was often marked by isolation. Students have told me they felt somewhat like misfits for their passionate love of the arts, or felt ostracized by their peers for holding such a unique view of the world. When they arrive at LACHSA, students have a very different experience. They feel a connection to one another. They recognize a similar enthusiasm in their peers; they feel understood. I believe it is the arts and the way our students use art as a lens through which to view the world that creates this connection.
How have the budget cuts on a national and city-wide level impacted your school programs?
Although we will continue to offer a robust academic and arts program we have had to prioritize our use of resources. At least in the short term, we are not in a position to offer the same breadth of elective classes as in years past. Our focus will continue to be our arts programs and our academic program.
If you would like to learn more about the program and its students, check out the videos below, highlighting student contributions over the years.