Utah Arts Academy

“Art is the greatest teacher of humanity.” These words, along with original student artwork, will be prominently displayed as you enter the new Utah Arts Academy (UAA) building, opening this fall for students in the St. George area.

Five years ago, I took a position as principal of Tuacahn High School for the Arts (THSA), and my family and I relocated to southern Utah from Nashville, Tennessee. At that point, I had spent 7 years in education administration and 5 years as a junior high and high school teacher. Coming to southern Utah was the realization of a dream as I had opportunities years prior to play on the iconic amphitheater stage with fellow musicians Peter Breinholt and Sam Payne and I was thrilled at the chance to be part of the arts education there.  Upon arriving it was dismaying to hear from many surrounding the school that there was an attitude that “art students” could not be expected to achieve at high academic levels.  Our team knew this was not the case. We created a five-year mission to become a nationally recognized arts school with a strong academic core.  With the help of an incredible faculty, dedicated parents and curious, bright students, THSA landed on the US News and World Report as a top school.

As artists and educators we believe in being open to change, new ideas, and always improving.  This fall, Tuacahn High School will open its doors as Utah Arts Academy. (UAA)  The school will be in a new space, designed specifically for arts education by VCBO Architecture. Utah Arts Academy will hold intentionally designed classroom and arts spaces.  These will include visual arts studios, theater tech classrooms, state of the art recording, film, black box, and dance studios as well as an innovative science lab and spacious academic classrooms.   The same faculty that helped reach academic and arts success will be hard at work in the new space.  Each teacher at UAA has a terminal degree in their field of study, as well as the knowledge and real-world experience to help students improve their craft.  Teachers and staff help connect students to internships, job opportunities and next steps in their educational journey.

UAA will continue to lead Utah in its educational innovation at the high school level.  We will work hard to prepare students for their next step – whether that be university, pre-professional, or professional work. In the last several years, students have been accepted into top universities across the state and country, ranging from schools such as Brigham Young University or the University of Utah, to the Naval Academy, New York University or Savannah School of Art and Design.

Utah Arts Academy will build on its previous connections and continue to work with its national academic and arts partnerships. These include  Arts Schools Network, Disney Theatricals, top arts universities, Harvard Graduate School of Education, McRel International, among others.

A common misconception I find myself often explaining is that arts schools are not only for those students hoping to pursue a career in an art field.  Understanding art and the methodology of an artist prepares students for a lifetime of color, curiosity and learning.  This in turn helps us become better humans in all fields of study; whether we choose to become a doctor or a dancer, a politician or a painter.  At UAA we have and will continue to learn from our past as we focus on the futures of each individual student.  Our work as an educational institution is to unlock each student’s passion and help them become curious, lifelong learners who will contribute to their world and community.

For more information about Utah Arts Academy, please visit our website at www.utahartsacademy.org or reach out to Heather Carroll at heatherc@utahartsacademy.org


About the Author

Dr. Drew Williams has spent 17 years in education, as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, athletic director, and principal. He earned his Bachelors of Science from BYU in Technology Education, Masters of Education in Administration, from Trevecca Nazarene University, and his Doctorate of Education in Learning Organizations and Strategic Change, from Lipscomb University. Dr. Williams has also played fiddle, guitar and mandolin in almost every state in the nation and across the globe, playing with top artists in venues large and small. Dr. Williams is married to Lacey Williams, educator, musician and songwriter, and they have three children: Emerson, Holland and Beckham. (https://www.leadershipcreative.com/drew)


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