One of the most impressive places I’ve ever stepped foot in is NOCCA, New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. Overlooking the great Mississippi River, this state-of-the-art facility has been in existence since 1973. It’s an internationally-acclaimed pre-professional conservatory for high schoolers – those high-calibre, gifted students whose talents lie in the arts.
We all know those kids, the ones who excel in dance or music, in creative writing. Those who have always dreamed of directing a film or being a famous chef. I have one of those children.
I had no school like this for her here in Atlanta. She asked for art, photography, and design courses as her electives, but they were few and far between. Most were underfunded by our state legislature and no longer offered in the local high schools. Louisiana, and especially New Orleans, knows the value of creativity. And they nurture it here at NOCCA.
Most of the 600 who attend get their core curriculum classes in the morning at their local high school, then spend their afternoons in ballet or piano practice, or writing music. Kids from out of town spend their entire day at NOCCA, in The Academic Studio. Others come in the summertime.
It’s a free program for budding artists who can pass the rigorous audition requirements. And it’s tough to stay in. All students are required to maintain a B or above average.
NOCCA makes sure their program is open to all kids who qualify. Scholarships are available for kids coming from outside New Orleans – to cover the necessary housing . . . or for private lessons some kids need to keep pace with NOCCA’s curriculum. Or the cost of a specialized summer program in NYC.
The school pulls from its successful graduates, local artists and foundations for teaching and support. Notables like chef Emeril Lagassee, musician Harry Connick, Jr., actor Wendell Pierce, The Hearst Foundation, Chevron, Microsoft– all play a key role in this vital program.
It’s a highly successful program. 95-98% of its graduates go on to college and conservatory programs across the country. 80% on scholarship.
Take a minute and look at their programs. Don’t you wish your city had such a place?
Thank you, New Orleans, for placing such a high value on creativity. And here’s to you for nurturing those young people who will, one day, grow up to change our world.