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Cleveland School of Arts


Situated at one of the main entry points to University Circle, the school lives up to its prominent location

Not your typical school building: The nearly finished Cleveland School of the Arts establishes a distinctive presence along Carnegie Avenue at Stearns Road in University Circle.Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

Critics charged that the state imposed heavy-handed restrictions that led initially to mediocre buildings with a cookie-cutter feel.

A tour of the nearly finished building on Monday showed that the new home of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's magnet school for the arts is shaping up as a beautiful and architecturally distinctive presence in University Circle, the city's artistic, educational and medical hub.

Construction workers were still putting the finishing touches on many spaces, particularly on the lower two floors of the three-story building.

But enough of the building was completed to give a clear impression that it's going to be one terrific place to study anything from photography to dance.

Rising to the occasion

Flashback: A slide prepared by Moody Nolan shows views of the old Cleveland School of the Arts, built in 1910 as an all-purpose school building.Moody Nolan

Located at 2064 Stearns Road, just east of John Hay High School and just west of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the $36.5 million building, which is transitioning from a grades 7-12 program to a four-year high school, will house 775 students.

At 126, 000 square feet, the new building represents a 33 percent increase in size over the dark, crowded, 1910 brick school building, designed by architect F.S. Barnum, that once stood on the same site and housed the School of the Arts since its founding in 1981.

Situated at one of the main entry points to University Circle, the new school building very much lives up to its prominent location.

Designed by architect Curt Moody of the Columbus-based architecture firm of Moody Nolan, which also has a Cleveland office, the building features a curved facade covered in large tiles of gray zinc, styled to resemble large blocks of masonry, but with a lighter, crisper look.

Glass stairwells at either end of the building, angled like the prows of a ship, make the building seem as if it's zooming dynamically through space.

A double arpeggio of vertical windows spreads playfully across the facade of the Cleveland School of the Arts.Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

A pair of fanciful arpeggios of vertically proportioned windows cut into the long facade facing Stearns evokes notes on a musical staff, or keys on a piano.

Also at two separate spots on the upper level of the main faccde, two rectangular window bays sheathed on their sides with bright, orange-painted aluminum panels, project abruptly from the facade, providing bright and colorful accents.

The northernmost stairwell will feature a monumental digital reproduction of a painted mural made for the building in the 2000s by Cleveland artist Mark Howard.

Construction fences will soon come down at the entry plaza to the new Cleveland School of the Arts, which faces the main intersection at the gateway to University Circle from Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights.Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

The main stairwell at the south end of the building, closest to Carnegie Avenue at Stearns Road, rises over an entry plaza angled to the southeast.

A welcoming gesture

The broad plaza communicates a sense of arrival and should create a gesture of welcome for students arriving via the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Red Line rapid or regional buses at the new terminal on the east side of MLK Jr. Drive.

It's important to note here that the new school contrasts sharply with the row of engineering and science buildings at Case Western Reserve University it faces opposite MLK Jr. Drive.

The opaque facades of the CWRU buildings portray the institution as an impregnable fortress disengaged from the city, an impression the university will need to ameliorate someday.

Inside the new School of the Arts, the building is endowed with airy, well-lighted studio classrooms, a well-equipped black box theater and plenty of rehearsal and instructional spaces for students studying a wide variety of creative disciplines.

Dance anyone? A new studio at the Cleveland School of the Arts is ready for action.Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

A look inside

Along with a recording studio for small bands, located off the choral practice room, the school features numerous practice rooms and other acoustically isolated classrooms for band and orchestra music.

And while the school emphasizes the arts, it also includes spiffy classrooms for English, chemistry, biology, physics and other core subjects.

Hallways throughout the building feel wide and spacious, although in many locations, lockers have not yet been installed. Those and other details will be added as construction zooms down to the wire.

Since 2009, the School of the Arts has operated in a temporary location at the former Harry E. Davis Junior High near East 107th Street and Superior Avenue, about two miles from University Circle.

The temporary building was roomier and brighter than the original facility in University Circle, and it does include a spacious auditorium - something the old School of the Arts lacked.

Private fundraising campaign

Ironically, the state, which provided two-thirds of the funding for the new building, doesn't consider auditoriums essential, so the new building doesn't have one.

But the nonprofit Friends of the Cleveland School of the Arts is raising $22 million to build a performing and visual arts center, which will include a 500- to 700-seat auditorium, on a patch of open land west of the new building.

A rendering of the proposed theater addition to the Cleveland School of the Arts, which would include a performance space seating 500 to 700.Westlake Reed Leskosky

Christine Bluso Kane, the executive director of the friends group, said on Monday that she hopes completion of the new building will give further impetus to the effort to complete the additional performance center.

The friends group has also scheduled an Oct. 24 grand opening celebration and fundraiser to gather money for new programming at the school.

For now, despite the lack of an auditorium, there's a lot to like about the new school.

To the extent that a building can determine educational outcomes, the new School of the Arts should set the stage for continued success at a traditionally high-achieving Cleveland school. The graduation rate at the School of the Arts this year was 97 percent, compared with 64.3 percent district-wide.



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