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Artistic Endeavors

New Fine Arts Academy offers
area students new opportunity

MCHS opens ‘school within a school’
to train future artists

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(May 2012) – What profession employs more people than the fields of medicine, law or agriculture? The arts.
As Indiana education officials find it necessary to cut funding for art classes, area high schoolers face fewer options when breaking away from math drills and language exercises. As a result, such cuts deprive children of core training for one of the largest career fields available.

Aaron Kelsey

Photo by Tess Worrell

Aaron Kelsey is leading the effort
to establish the Fine Arts Academy.

Encompassing careers such as actors, architects, artists, animators, choreographers, photographers and authors, the arts offer a wide variety of occupational choices. All this makes Madison Consolidated High School’s creation of a Fine Arts Academy both exciting for students and forward thinking for career development in the Madison, Ind., community.
To help supplement arts education in Madison, arts teacher Aaron Kelsey has led an effort to create the Madison Consolidated High School Fine Arts Academy. It is scheduled to open in fall 2012. Interested students are being asked to submit an application for admission now to the high school office and begin this “school within a school” in the fall. Students follow the core program through the high school but add a specific focus in the arts through a series of required additional classes. Completion of the Academy requirements earns students a special distinction for their diploma.
“The Academy grew out of a concern over the deep cuts in arts education in schools throughout the area,” Kelsey said. “Because of Madison’s unique and strong ties to the arts (three community theaters, a professional art gallery, several pottery shops, and numerous resident artists), we saw the opportunity to use community strengths to prepare students to join the arts community.”
The high school has already placed students in numerous post-secondary fine arts programs at a number of colleges throughout the region and the nation, gleaning the needed insights to launch a program designed to hone the talent necessary to excel in these programs. The Academy is the culmination of that preparation.
Students begin the program their freshman year by taking the “Fine Arts Connections” course. This provides the common foundation for students who then branch into their area of interest. Options include instrumental music, vocal music, theatre, and visual arts. Each specialty has its own core set of courses. As students pursue their academic preparation for college through core high school courses, they also hone their arts credentials through the Academy courses. Courses allow students to polish audition skills, develop a broad portfolio, or focus on musical techniques. All participants complete their training with their own senior project – a concert, one-man-show, art display or other focus that allows the student to exhibit the skills he or she has developed.
Because of cuts in funding for the arts in other school systems, the Academy hopes to draw not only local students but also students from other Indiana school systems who can now transfer to any Indiana school tuition-free. Students from Kentucky are also welcome, but they will have to pay a fee to attend. The Counseling Office can offer full details of the procedure for enrolling for all interested students.
To enroll, students simply need to complete the application which is available from the counseling department at the high school or can be downloaded at www.madison.k12.in.us. Submit the application to the counselor’s office, and a member of the art faculty will contact the student.
All Academy students must complete the “Fine Arts Connection” course, a minimum of 10 fine arts credits, a minimum of 3 service hours each year, and either AP Art History, AP Studio Art, or AP Music Theory. (If upper class students want to enroll in the Academy, they must have 10 electives available for completing the fine arts courses.)
The Academy looks to both broaden scope and increase depth in training in the coming years. As the Academy develops, organizers hope to include visiting artists to add practical, real-life perspectives to the training. Another key goal is to expand the offerings to include a focus on dance.
The Academy notes that the benefits of participation go far beyond preparation for a career in the arts – students develop a creative way of thinking. As they do, they learn to make good judgments in whatever situations they face, to appreciate diverse perspectives and work within them, to think through complex circumstances and develop unique approaches, and to communicate in ways that go far beyond words.
Whether one celebrates an increased focus on arts training for the enrichment of the Madison community or celebrates the focus on preparing students for viable careers beyond high school, the Academy offers a unique, much-needed addition to academic training for local students, school officials say.

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