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At Irmo High School, arts magnet provides another ‘source of pride’ for students, staff

Irmo, SC - When Irmo High School launched its international arts magnet program during the 2014-2015 school year, it created a new lens through which teaching and learning occurs at the Lexington-Richland District Five school.

“It’s been a tremendous source of pride for our students,” said principal David Riegel. “Irmo High School always has had a proud past and bright future. The arts magnet adds to that tradition by enriching academics and providing opportunities for our students.”

Irmo High School was one of five schools in District Five to receive a three-year federal Magnet School Assistant Program (MSAP) grant in 2013 to bolster magnet offerings. At the start of the 2014-2015 school year, Irmo High School officially opened the doors to the new International School of the Arts. A wide array of courses in dance, theater, music and visual arts are available through the magnet program; which aims to develop lifelong creators and patrons of the arts through rigorous standards-based, arts-infused learning. MSAP funds have complemented plans for the new magnet program and added unique opportunities for students, including master classes with professional artists.

“It's just the sort of opportunities that could foster a deeper appreciation for the arts,” said recent Irmo High graduate Ryan Knott.

“When a city has a strong arts enthusiasm, it’s the sign of the general vital health of the community in the same way that being enthusiastic about local sports is,” said Knott, a local professional cellist. “And what would be awesome to come out of this magnet program would be to see the community become as enthusiastic about the arts as they are about football, or soccer, or any other sport.”

“The school’s facility also provides an advantage to students interested in arts careers,” Riegel added. The school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2015 for the 600-plus seat theater funded through a bond referendum, which voters passed in 2008. The nearly 38,000 square-foot Center for the Arts includes energy efficient LED lights, a state-of-the-art sound system and stage area, outdoor amphitheater, concession stand and box office.

Kalelee Hagins, an Irmo High School graduate, has worked as a lighting designer during school performances. She said the magnet program provides more opportunities for students who want to pursue careers in the arts.

“During most of my time here at Irmo High School, I did light shows for different companies, different plays, different lights and different sets,” Hagins said. “The magnet is fairly new, so a lot of people haven’t had the experience I had working with lights. It’s a one man show, for sure…but students are now getting that opportunity here at their school.”

In early September, Riegel walks through the Center for the Arts, preparing for the school’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. Surrounded by colorful student artwork and posters of upcoming school productions, he watches students pass through the space on their way to class.

“Art is all around them,” he said. “Every day, our students are exposed to the arts. From lessons in our rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program to simply walking to and from classes, art touches all areas of our school. It’s the perfect complement to what Irmo High School has to offer.”

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