My application for the New World School of the Arts was denied when I was a sixteen year-old, soon-to-be high school dropout twenty-five years ago. Even though I got as far as the audition, my genuine, though burgeoning, talent was not enough to overcome a precipitous slide in my academic performance over the previous year and a half. The faculty members at my interview made it clear that my grades prevented them from accepting me into the school, but encouraged me to continue my creative pursuits.
My particular situation included other factors that contributed to that result, among them was the fact that I had never even known such a place existed until, literally, months before I applied. In hindsight, I’m sure things would have turned out differently if, instead of trying to negotiate through a maze of Christian fundamentalist teachers and mullet-wearing, C&C Music Factory-listening friends in middle school, I had been actively working to graduate to the New World School of the Arts for my freshman year of high school.
It’s one thing when circumstances take your life in a different direction, but it’s quite another when your options are taken entirely off the table and that’s what is about to happen if Florida lawmakers move forward with a proposed $650,000 cut to the New World School of the Arts’ funding. House Bill 5001 is poised to become the most infamous piece of legislation ever passed by the State of Florida, leaving just $20,000 in grant money to one of the country’s most successful public art school programs.
While some of the school’s most well-known graduates and alumni have come forward to oppose this ridiculous legislative effort, the biggest danger is not the risk of losing future Oscar winners or the few incredible artists who are bound to come out of any rigorous and dedicated arts program. The real loss will be taking that possibility away from millions of young minds, who whether or not they end up in a creative field, would have at least seen that path as open to them.
When I left New World that day with my portfolio between my legs I was disappointed for not getting in to what looked like a great environment to develop artistically. But even that short visit proved beneficial because I knew such a place existed. If Tallahassee insists on killing funding for the New World School of the Arts, at least we’ll get to see a lot of tap dancing on the floor of the house.