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Arts program faces funding challenges

For ten years, the Coronado School of the Arts, or CoSA as it's called, has provided students with an extended-day arts curriculum mixed with regular high school academics. Located at Coronado High School but open to all San Diego County students, the school's story is indicative of the struggle arts programs face throughout the state. Tobin Nageotte, has more.

Kris McClung, Director, Coronado School of the Arts: "CoSA is a safe and nurturing place for students who have to be artists."

Melody, Student, Coronado School of the Arts: "CoSA is a place where people can come and explore what they want to do after high school and it prepares you for the real world - artistically, and I would even say, emotionally in every aspect."

For ten years, the Coronado School of the Arts has offered youth in San Diego County the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Located at Coronado High School, around 130 CoSA students mix regular high school classes with an extended arts curriculum.

McClung: "We have five different departments. Musical theatre is one of them. That's our largest department. We have instrumental music, technical theatre, visual art, and classical and contemporary dance."

Phillip, Student, Coronado School of the Arts: "CoSA is the only place in the County where you can immerse yourself in what you really want to do and then compliment that with a good academic education. You get the best of both worlds out of your high school career."

Sulijah, Student, Coronado School of the Arts: "I'm from Poway. My school didn't offer the dance classes that I wanted. I didn't think the people there were as passionate about dance as I am. So, I came here and I have a lot more opportunity."

Barry Lorge: "It's a safe haven for kids who may be at risk, who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds, who've never really belonged before."

For years, California schools have been forced to scale back or close their arts programs. Despite its location in affluent Coronado, CoSA faces substantial financial hurdles. The Coronado School District can only fund 45% of CoSA's operating costs. The rest comes from an independent Foundation."

Lorge: "The CoSA foundation is entirely volunteers. It's made up primarily by parents of current students and parents of alumni. There is no paid staff. We generally raise funds the old fashioned way with a gala with an auction attached, by having home tours, and bake sales."

CoSA is in the final phase of construction on a new $21 million dollar facility paid for by school bonds and community development funds.

McClung: "We will have two theatre venues, three dance studios, music technology rooms, music orchestra rooms, drama rooms, dance studios. This place will be top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art."

Despite the new facility, the CoSA Foundation still must raise over half of the program's operating budget.

Lorge: "Really the only long-term solution is an endowment which will give us an income stream to support the school of the arts permanently."

McClung: "I think that more money has to be spent on the arts. I hear that about math and science a lot. I agree with that too. I think there should be a lot more money spent on math and science. I also think that people are missing the boat if they don't understand that people who do art, whether they become artists or not, it expands that ability to be creative in any endeavor they do."

Linda Benning: "Speaking as an art and academic teacher, the arts need to be core curriculum in all public high schools. Not considered as frivolous classes that are susceptible to budget cuts. Creative students develop different parts of their brains and they're better students all around. They do better in life in general."

McClung: "Without art, society doesn't have that mirror to look into. We don't reflect upon ourselves. We don't reflect upon our customs and beliefs and our problems as a society. That's what artists do. Artists ask tough questions. And then they reflect possible answers to those questions in their pieces of art and it makes people think. Where are we going to get our future artists unless we nurture them in the elementary schools and in the secondary schools. They're not going to spontaneously appear in society. You have to give them a place to learn about what kind of an artist they are and what is important to express in their art. If you don't give them the type of place where they can work and converse with other artists, we'll have fewer and fewer artists. Fewer and fewer people will take the risk to become an artist. And it's a risk, it's a huge risk."

Phillip: "It was an entire career shift from what I wanted to be before, which was simply be a lab technician and do research. Now I want to go out and follow my artistic dream. That wasn't even an option for me a couple of years ago."

Mary, Student, Coronado School of the Arts: "I came mainly as an actress, but over time I realized that I like to sing too. Because in musical theatre you have to sing, dance, and act. And I love it."

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