Tacoma School of the Arts – SOTA
Have you heard of SOTA? If you’re a parent of one or more artistically inclined children, it’s not too early to start thinking about the Tacoma School of the Arts. Since it first opened its doors in the fall of 2001, SOTA has served as Tacoma’s only arts high school. (Its sister schools are SAMi, the Science and Math Institute, and iDEA, the School of Industrial Design, Engineering and Art). Sports are not offered at Tacoma’s School of the Arts
Thanks to help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this unique public high school teaches four essentials to its students: community, empathy, thinking and balance. Innovative and unconventional, SOTA fosters a unique combination of independence, responsibility and rigorous study among its students.
With a capacity of roughly 600 students, SOTA is spread out over several downtown blocks. It utilizes museums, private businesses and the University of Washington campus. Students juggle a unique schedule that varies from day to day and includes internships and trips abroad.
Class sizes are small. Local artists-in-residence are included among the faculty. And students play a role in everyday school functions, from art projects to administrative duties.
Only incoming freshmen are admitted, and admission for the class of 2021 is already closed. Prospective students begin the admission protocol at the start of the eighth grade. Since there are typically more applications than available space, a lottery system and waiting list are utilized to ensure fair placement.
Along with performing arts, visual arts and academics, the school offers College in the High School, a dual-credit program in which students can earn high school and college credit simultaneously. While exposed to a variety of interdisciplinary studies, each student pursues a major in a specific field of study (double majors are fine), and that major can vary widely, from audio recording to sculpture. Individual mentoring and student showcases contribute to the depth and breadth of a SOTA education.
According to US News & World Report, 68% of SOTA students are female and minority enrollment totals 33%. In 2011, SOTA was one of four schools nationwide to win the John F. Kennedy Center’s National Schools of Distinction in Arts Education Award. In its press release, the Kennedy Center praised SOTA for offering “a creative path of learning, which emphasizes human expression through the visual and performing arts as central elements in academic achievement and lifelong endeavors. The school addresses contemporary issues for today’s youth, by fostering relevant education and learning objectives through student-centered learning topics. Curriculum is delivered through project-based experiences that link classroom activities to the world at large. It is located in the city’s urban core amongst its cultural institutions . . .”
Art. Music. Dance. A unique and edifying high school education is available in downtown Tacoma, where students can ride the Link to classes that turn art into an education and education into an art.
By MATT KITE for THE HUME GROUP