• students on stage

      Students rehearsing (Photo – Kathryn Mueller)

      In October 2022, Eliot Arts Magnet (6-8 grade middle school) received a five-year, $5M Magnet Schools of America federal arts magnet grant.

      By Victoria Knapp

      This is the same type of grant that Altadena Arts Magnet received in 2017, which, along with the addition of the French dual language immersion program, helped double student enrollment to over 500 students. At a time when enrollment is continuing to decline at most schools, a grant allows schools to develop the types of programs that attract and retain students from across the district and beyond.  This is particularly true for arts-related programs.  Last year, PUSD lost three dozen students to CS Arts in Duarte alone.

      In addition to providing art classes as part of the daily curriculum and integrating the arts in teaching core subjects, Eliot Arts Magnet is building the first ever Arts Conservatory in PUSD.  The Conservatory is funded by the grant and in partnership with the Expanded Learning Opportunities grant under the direction of Director Maria Toliver.  The conservatory program affords all students in grades 6-8 the opportunity to select from over 20 courses in the four major arts categories: Visual Art, Dance, Theatre, and Music.  Some of the offerings this year include: Mariachi Band, Costume Design, Graphic Design, Stage Design, Ceramics Studio, Textile Art, Improv, Stop Motion Animation, and Hollywood Makeup Design.  These courses are offered after school and allow students the opportunity to get exposure to the arts in a way they would not otherwise be able, while honing their skills and talents in preparation for high school.

      By the end of 6th grade, students will audition with a performance piece or display their art portfolio as a pre-assessment to show growth over time as they select a major course of study for 7th and 8th grade.  At the conclusion of grade 8, students will have a public showing or performance as an end- of-program assessment preparing them for a high school conservatory experience and beyond, such as Juilliard, Berklee College of Music, or the Bolshoi Ballet!

      Given that the Los Angeles entertainment industry generated $226B in revenue in 2020 (based on information from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics), providing an arts-rich education gives young students a very viable pathway to later career avenues should they so choose, while keeping young artists in our district instead of losing them to other districts.  And, while studying at an arts school does not necessarily mean a student will become a professional artist, it does afford them the opportunity to expand their humanity, deepen their access to academic input, and find a more collaborative and happy way to enjoy their school years.

      Victoria Knapp is a PUSD parent with a 6th grader at Eliot Arts Magnet, an Altadena Town Councilmember, Chair of the Town Council’s Education Committee, and PEN Ambassador.

      a student dancing and another applying makeup for stage

      (Photos – Kathryn-Mueller)

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      1. Gary Green says:

        This arts program is a great development. PUSD used to have a large arts program district-wide including music, drama and visual arts. Unfortunately these programs have withered. I wonder what has become of the Arts Magnet Program at McKinley School which is K-8? Also what awaits students at Eliot when they move on to high school? The arts programs at our high schools are a shadow of what they once were. It is a great beginning. Now we need the follow up.

        • Jeff S. says:

          I was a former McKinley Parent and we did have an Arts Program, and they still have one last I knew. It was just never fully supported by the district after Percy Clark opened it as an art school. They did start an annual fund to support the arts.

          They had been doing shows and musicals for years, way before Altadena. I wonder why Altadena was given the grant and support for this and not McKinley as it’s centrally located in Pasadena and near the Pasadena Playhouse where the kids walked to see shows and had some hands-on experiences there. It was a great campus with a lot of great families when we were there over 10 years ago.

      2. Kat E. says:

        It’s too bad so many parents, teachers, and other staff have left this school over the past few years under their current leadership. Maybe with the right principal, who is more concerned about the school, than with looks of it from the outside, it will actually thrive.

        • Sofia S. says:

          It looks like this worked out in a coincidental way. An announcement was made that their current principal has resigned to go elsewhere.

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