Boston Arts Academy is a unique pilot school that requires an audition for admission and serves approximately 500 students in grades 9-12. Its newly renovated home is a modern 4-story building with big glass windows overlooking Fenway Park and the MGM Music Hall. The cafeteria and library are located at the entrance, and large bronze images from ancient cultures around the world hang on the main staircase walls. Whiteboard-covered hallways invite hand-written inspirational quotes, drawings, and displays of student artwork. Each floor has a different Arts focus: Dance, Theater, Music, or Visual Arts at one end; academic classes at the other.

A Word Wall with visual arts vocabulary differentiated by grade level fills one side of a whiteboard in Kathleen Marsh‘s classroom. After drawing self-portraits, ninth graders are learning about form, observation, texture/pattern, and process as they create 3D terracotta heads based on the Ife tradition – an activity that parallels a unit of study in their Humanities class, Afrika Lives. Ms. Marsh has taught at BAA for 25 years “because as a staff we have continued to ask hard questions, push our practice, and put the students first.”  

Surrounded by instruments, Chris Rivelli checks a ninth grader’s Music Theory assignment. In a large room with tables covered with a wide assortment of colorful fabrics, Elisabetta Polito‘s students are working on a variety of fashion designs — from sketches in their notebooks to ironing finished pieces. In one classroom six students practice synchronized dance moves, while two girls independently review lines for a performance in a tiny room nearby.

Jenna Lord and Daniel Jentzen are working with a class of ninth graders on the set design for an upcoming performance of “The Crucible”. Students handle power tools with ease, wear hard hats as they work together to move a heavy ladder, and add paper mâché bark to trees.

In the hallway outside Jean Binjour‘s biology class I noticed a large poster titled “A Cell is like… A Musical!” Many academic classes at BAA incorporate the arts – Dylan Blank‘s Humanities students, for example, were writing song lyrics – and arts classes require academic skills, such as tenth graders in Sam Mendoza‘s marketing class creating a budget worksheet for their pop-up business. What he appreciates most about BAA is the support of “experienced, knowledgeable, and accessible administrators and mentor teachers [who] foster creativity and build a collaborative culture.”

What supports do you have at YOUR school?



Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.

This is in our Fashion Tech II class, where we’re doing a “Big Business” project. Amelia is working on creating a prototype patch for one of our products, sweatpants that students might wear, while Nex (Project Manager) is looking on. Last year we learned about the history of fashion; this year we are learning how to create and market a Pop-Up Shop ~ Amelia Wolfson & Nex Johnson, Grade 10

I am the Finance Manager for the products we’re designing in our Fashion Tech class and I’m asking Mr. Mendoza to check my budget worksheet. I think it’s interesting that, as high school sophomores, we’re learning what it takes to run a real business out in the world! ~ Juliet Lerner, Grade 10

We are on the marketing team and we’re writing down possible brand names for our product. We’ve learned how to get customer attention with eye-grabbing fliers, develop “customer personas” of our target audience, and create a social media account to promote the business. ~ Zoe Gillispie & Jules Martillo, Grade 10

I was in my music theory class, where we have been learning to find the intervals between each scale. I was showing Mr. Rivelli my work to make sure I had the notes right. An interval is the space between each note, which is easier to understand on a piano. ~ Saraiya Bell, Grade 9

I was in Mr. Blank’s Creative Writing class. We are creating a song and I was trying to figure out what notes to play. Writing lyrics is challenging because my creativity is expressed more through music than with words. In this class I’ve learned to be more open-minded, recognizing that I can use my awareness of things going on around me in my writing. ~ Kemoni Cartwright, Grade 12

This is in AP Biology and I was looking at nutrition labels with Mr. Binjour. I was surprised to find out how much information they contained. We’re doing a biochemistry unit, learning about the chemical properties of biomolecules and how our bodies use them. ~ Luisa Barros, Grade 12

Using paper maché to make the outside bark of a tree, Eli (Brhane) and I are helping build the set for “The Crucible” — a tenth grade performance – in our Tech Theatre class with Ms. Lord. In addition to learning tool names and how to use them, this class has helped us appreciate what goes on behind the scenes of a theater production. ~ Eli Brhane & Marianna McCallum, Grade 9