Our History

Old Arts HighA Brief History of Arts High

Arts High School opened its doors to students in September 1931 as the first school of its kind in the United States, and almost immediately became the model for the High School of Art & Music in New York City.  According to Harrison E. Webb, our first principal, “It was taken for granted that art and drama were to be regarded as major pursuits, comparable in importance to Latin, mathematics and the sciences in an academic high school.”

Arts High School is a public high school for the visual and performing arts, with majors offered in visual art, vocal and instrumental music, drama, dance, and television communications. The aim is to provide all students with the artistic and academic knowledge, skills, and exposure necessary to develop into accomplished creative artists and performers. The impetus of the curriculum is to train students with a sense of harmony, form, rhythm, design, color, movement, and theater. Every student in grades 6 through 9, living in the city of Newark who has an aptitude and love for the arts may apply for admission.  Each year, approximately 48 students are accepted into our 7th grade exploratory arts program, and approximately 175 students are accepted into one of our 9th grade major programs.

In the mid-1990’s, the school was temporarily relocated while a major construction project was undertaken. In January 1996, the doors of Arts High School were reopened, with a full compliment of drama, dance, and television production laboratories. More recently, Newark Public Schools undertook a multi-million-dollar renovation of our beautiful art-deco style auditorium.  The style and beauty were preserved, while the structure was repaired and reinforced, and the infrastructure was upgraded for the 21st century.

Some of our esteemed graduates include: singers Sarah Vaughn, Melba Moore, and Connie Francis; jazz artists Wayne Shorter and Woody Shaw; Philadelphia Orchestra trumpeter Seymour Rosenfeld; music directors Mort Lindsey and Charlie Calello; actors Taurean Blaque, Tisha Campbell, and Michael B. Jordan; ballerina Beatrice Rodriquez; fashion designer Steven Burrows; graphic artist Paul bacon; and dancer/choreographer Savion Glover.