From Vision to Reality: The McCallum Fine Arts Academy 1993-2011
The idea for a fine arts focused academic program for Austin high school students was initiated by then McCallum Principal Penny Miller and others. This group sought the advice of Ruth Denney, a professor of drama at the University of Texas who had successfully founded Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. As a result of Denney’s involvement and that of then Dean Jon Whitmore, the McCallum Fine Arts Academy was embraced from its inception by the UT College of Fine Arts, resulting in a strong partnership that continues to this day.
In August 1993, the AISD Board unanimously approved a proposal to create an accelerated fine arts program called Achievement through Creative Excellence (ACE) to include a Fine Arts Academy at McCallum. Though the Board initially provided funding only for a one-year program development coordinator, the McCallum community seized the concept and began to build what would become a nationally acclaimed fine arts program.
Today McCallum High School is a diverse inclusive urban campus with a nationally recognized Fine Arts Academy that provides exceptional intensive arts-focused study for talented students from all across Austin. The school enjoys robust enrollment with a student population that is approximately 22 percent African American, 30 percent Hispanic and 46 percent white. While more than half of its students are identified as at-risk and approximately one-third are economically disadvantaged, McCallum has maintained a solid academic rating and continues to strive for excellence for all students. In recent years, Newsweek Magazine ranked McCallum in the top 3%-5% of America’s high schools based on the percentage of students in Advanced Placement classes.
While the McCallum Fine Arts Academy is an undeniable success story, its future is by no means secure. In the face of massive state education budget cuts, strong community support for the Academy remains crucial.