Students wanted for Arts High |

Students wanted for Arts High

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

There’s a new high school coming to Park City, and according to the founder and artistic director an appropriate tagline might be: "It’s not like school."

Pam Arts, who recently launched a comprehensive arts program at Prospector Square Lodge & Conference Center, will open the doors of Utah High School for the Arts in its new location next month.

Arts launched the alternative academic program, known as Arts High, in 1992 in Orem. The program started with seven students at its inception and by the end of the first semester enrollment had grown to 50.

Graduates of the school have gone on to attend college, enroll in specialized arts programs, accept jobs in various artistic fields and start their own businesses, she says.

Arts explains that the pillars of Arts High are freedom, creativity and flexibility. Its structure is similar to that of a public high school, but each student’s academic path is individualized and tailored to their specific interests.

"The school is based on freedom of the student," Arts says. "We help each student build a curriculum around themselves."

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Core subjects including math, science, English and history are offered in addition to courses like theater, music and art.

Enrollment is open to ages 12 and up and prospective students must go through an interview process to be accepted. Parents are interviewed, as well. "The parents have to understand the program and be on board as much as the students," Arts says.

The first requirement, she says, is that the student must want to be there. "We’re not here to babysit," she says. Other requirements include coming to class on time and respect for oneself, others and property.

Arts emphasizes that Arts High is not a remedial school. "We’ve had ‘A’ students to kids who were expelled from public schools," she says. The style of learning does tend to appeal to right-brain thinkers and students who have struggled in conventional teaching environments, she adds.

Classes will be held at the Prospector Square Lodge & Conference Center, which houses eight classroom-size meeting rooms as well as a large theater. Classes and workshops may also be held off-site, Arts notes.

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. Arts runs theater, vocal and music groups that are based at the Prospector and all students will be required to help with one show per semester. Their involvement can be in technical aspects, performing, marketing, directing or promotions, she says.

The class schedule will be designed to meet students’ needs. Classes are divided by skill level rather than age, so middle school and high school-aged students may find themselves in the same courses.

School is in session Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and observes the same holidays and breaks as the public school system.

Classes start Sept. 8 with a four-week introductory camp, during which students experience all that the school has to offer and select which areas of study they’d like to pursue.

Camp is an intensive experience during which workshops, classes and clinics are tightly scheduled, Arts says. Students have the opportunity to try everything from math and science to ballet and basketweaving. "We do lots of things together that you might not necessarily do on your own," she says.

During the four-week period, students are instructed to pick up an instrument they’ve never played before and to prepare for a recital at the end of camp.

The head-first, total-immersion type of experience exemplifies what the school is all about.

Josh Francis, who graduated from Arts High in 2003, remembers one of his early experiences at the school. His stage teacher told him to build a hut. When he asked how to do it, the answer he got was something along the lines of, "You figure it out."

While surprised by the teacher’s reaction, he realized that the freedom and can-do attitude was what had been missing from his experiences in public school. Francis has returned to Arts High to teach music, stage tech and theater.

Eric Blood, a 1999 graduate who has also been hired as a teacher, says that the school develops a love for learning. "The normal view is you have to make kids learn certain things," he says. "The biggest advantage to Arts High is that it cultivates a passion for learning."

Blood started studying music, dance and theater at the school at 10 years old (he was the youngest student accepted to date). Now he is a professional bass player and wants to share his experience with other young students.

One interesting aspect of the school is that the students themselves decide when they are ready to graduate. In order to do so, they must complete requirements including a portfolio, community project and comprehensive senior project pertaining to what they have studied and accomplished.

The high school is just one aspect of the Prospector Arts program, which includes a full theater season, several youth performance groups and REEL School, a total immersion program for aspiring filmmakers. The school fits into the Prospector Lodge’s desire to incorporate an educational component. "From the conception of the school, it always seemed like Park City is where it belongs," Arts says.

Arts High is an ecclesiastical tax-exempt organization under Emerson-Smith College, which Arts also founded. Emerson-Smith College is recognized by the state of Utah but it is not a state-accredited school. It is accredited by a small ecclesiastical organization. As an ecclesiastical, nondenominational organization, Arts High does not preach religion but its students can pray if they choose.

An open house for parents and students interested in Arts High will be held at the Prospector Lodge on Saturday, Aug. 21, from 2 to 5 p.m. For updates and more information, visit or email .