Chicago High School for the Arts

Chicago High School of the Arts
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Type Renaissance 2010 Contract School
Motto for the arts + minds of Chicago

Executive Director, Jose Ochoa

Established 2009
Principal Teresa Milsap
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 450
Campus Urban

The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) offers a four-year college preparatory curriculum combined with intensive training in the performing and visual arts. A public high school open to all Chicago residents, ChiArts opened in the fall of 2009 with 150 freshmen divided among four arts areas: Dance, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Musical Theater A new freshman class will be added each subsequent year.

ChiArts was previously and temporarily located at the Douglas school campus for 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, where ChiArts shared the campus with John J. Pershing West Middle School. The Douglas campus is in the southern most are of the South Loop in the 2nd ward. The neighborhood contains one of the few surviving collections of rowhouses on the South Side, dating from the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The housing includes early works by Louis H. Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright (Roloson House). The neighborhood is often referred to as the “GAP,” due to its survival in the midst of other areas that had been cleared for redevelopment in the 1960s. In recent years, the area has undergone substantial rehabilitation, including construction of many new “infill” residences.

The permanent address/home of the school is scheduled to be announced by CPS on or before December 1, 2011. In the meantime and for the 2011-2012 school year, the school is located at 521 East 35th Street, Chicago, IL, the former site of Doolittle West Elementary School.



Students participate in a rigorous program, including five hours of academics, three hours of arts education in their major area and one to four hours of rehearsal/practice per day. The school day begins at 8:00 a.m. and concludes at 5:00 p.m.


Entrance into the school is through a competitive audition and application process. Students may audition for dance (novice and advanced), theatre (acting, musical theatre), visual arts, music (instrumental and voice).


In 2004, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust convened a group of approximately ten arts and education organizations to discuss the issue of diversity within mid- to large-sized arts organizations in Chicago and specifically the lack of representation in this landscape by professional artists representing the many ethnic communities who call Chicago home.

The Diversity Working Group (DWG) surveyed the Chicago landscape to identify existing educational resources for aspiring young artists across a broad age spectrum, keeping in mind the concentrated, focused training required to prepare young artists for professional careers. Incredible richness within the existing resources in Chicago’s many excellent privately funded community music schools, youth orchestras, university music programs and major cultural institutions was clear. What was not found was a public institution that would provide a comprehensive learning environment with superior training at the high school level – a critical stage in development for the aspiring young artist. This age group stood out as the one area of greatest need and also that with greatest potential for positive impact.

Once it was decided to pursue the idea of an arts high school, the group undertook conversations with key senior administrative members from Chicago Public Schools to assess receptivity and possible options for the creation of an exceptional arts-focused educational institution in Chicago. DWG members conducted site visits and/or spoke to officials at several public and private arts high schools in other cities.

At this time, Renaissance 2010 became an avenue for establishing new schools and offering students and parents a quality choice in education. Civic leaders were identified by the DWG members to help become the executive committee that would lead the project through the application process. The Chicago Board of Education approved the school on October 24, 2007. The executive committee became the founding board of directors of the school. Currently, there are 24 board of directors. In 2008, after year-long competitive national search, the ChiArts board of directors named Jose Ochoa as the founding Executive and Artistic Director of the school. Instruction began on September 8, 2009.


Numerous community arts programs, professional arts organizations and institutions of higher learning that specialize in the arts have come forward to join with ChiArts in making this type of educational experience available to Chicago residents through the public school system. Arts Partners include: Actors Gymnasium, Albany Park Theatre Project, American Theatre Company, About Face Theatre, Art Institute of Chicago, Art Resources in Teaching, Auditorium Theatre, Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago Arts Partership in Education (CAPE), Chicago Chamber Musicians, Chicago Children's Choir, Chicago College of Performing Arts/Roosevelt University, Chicago Multicultural Dance Center, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Columbia College Chicago, Congo Square Theatre Company, Dance Works Chicago, DuSable Museum, Ensemble Español Center for Spanish Dance and Music, e Creative Arts Foundation, Goodman Theatre, Harris Theater, The House Theatre of Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, Hyde Park School of Dance, Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, Joel Hall Dancers & Center, Joffrey Ballet, Lifeline Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Lou Conte Dance Studio, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Marwen, Merit School of Music, Midwest Young Artists, Muntu Dance Theatre, Music Institute of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, National Museum of Mexican Art, Natya Dance Theatre, Pegasus Players, People’s Music School, Piven Theatre Workshop, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, Ravinia Festival, Redmoon Theater, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, River North Chicago Dance Company, Rock for Kids, Ruth Page Foundation, Sherwood Conservatory, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Theatre School at DePaul University, Thelonius Monk Institute, Urban Gateways, UIC- College of Architecture and the Arts, UIC- College of Education, VanderCook College of Music, Victory Gardens Theater


ChiArts is a member of the following organizations: National Guild of Community Arts Education, Arts Schools NETWORK, Illinois Arts Alliance


Chicago Talks

Chicago Reader

Chicago Tribune

Catalyst Chicago

Record Star

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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