For the students of The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, or Charter Arts for short, “the campus is the community.” Located in the heart of Southside Bethlehem, Executive Director & CEO of Charter Arts Diane LaBelle says that the school truly focuses on partnerships and involvement with the South Bethlehem community. While Charter Arts opened in 2003, the school truly became a part of the south side community when their new school was built on 3rd street in 2015.
Charter Arts is an audition-based, tuition-free, public charter school that provides a comprehensive curriculum for students in grades 9-12. Unlike other public schools, Charter Arts is specifically designed for students who have a passion for the arts. After auditioning, students enter the school in one of seven artistic majors: dance, theatre, vocal music, instrumental music, literary arts, figure skating, or visual art.
Charter Arts is a regional school, meaning any student in eastern Pennsylvania is welcome to audition and attend. Some students come from over two hours away, “from as far north as the Poconos, as far south as the Philadelphia suburbs, and as far west as Lancaster County.” Once enrolled, Charter Arts provides students with a rigorous course load of half core classes (math, science, English, history, etc.) and half arts classes. The school is proud to be known “as one of the most respected high schools for the arts in the nation.”
Since opening, Charter Arts has grown from 267 students in four majors to 627 students in seven majors. According to LaBelle, this is the population they would like to maintain. She says that having an intimate number students is part of what makes the school so special and successful. With around a hundred students in each department, they are able to receive a personalized instruction that allows them to flourish and truly explore their art.
Charter Arts in the Community
When it comes to interacting with their surrounding community, Charter Arts offers numerous opportunities for their students to become involved. LaBelle said that they want their students to “know what community is all about.” To accomplish this, Charter Arts students are out and about in South Bethlehem every day.
It was no accident that the new Charter Arts building was constructed in South Bethlehem, LaBelle explains. The growing arts community is the reason they’re here. LaBelle continued by saying that it was “really critical that we find a home … and we knew that South Bethlehem was the place.”
In terms of local partnerships, Charter Arts has outreach groups with SteelStacks, Godfrey Daniels, Cafe The Lodge, Zoellner Arts Center, Banana Factory Arts Center, Sands Casino, PBS39 at SteelStacks, and more.
Charter Arts students have had their work featured in all of these South Bethlehem establishments. For example, the Sands Casino purchased a number of pieces from visual arts students that are now hung in the hotel. Music, dance, theatre students often have the chance to perform at the Zoellner Arts Center. The ice skating majors even have year-round ice rink access at the Steel Ice Center.
The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts offers an inspirational message of how everyone can be a part of the arts, no matter your age. They have certainly become a staple in the South Bethlehem arts community and are excited to further the relationship.
For more information on Charter Arts and their upcoming events, visit their website.
*All photos provided by Charter Arts – Ann Gillette*