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Boston Arts Academy marks major milestone in construction of new $125 million facility in Fenway

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The final steel beam for the new school building's structure was put in place during a topping-off ceremony.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, City and state officials, and members of the Boston Arts Academy Foundation, along with Boston Arts Academy (BAA) representatives, today raised the final steel beam into place to complete the structure of the new, $125 million BAA facility on Ipswich Street, directly across the street from Fenway Park. 

At a time of great societal change for young people across the country, construction of this world-class building for Boston's only public high school for the visual and performing arts serves as a bright, shining example of the ingenuity and innovation of the Boston Public Schools' vision for the future. BAA students, faculty and the community at large will reap the benefits of the expanded space, which will soon open its doors to BAA's rapidly growing student population.

Led by mistress of ceremonies and BAA student body president, Anya Edwards, the topping-off ceremony marked a major milestone in the construction of the new building, transforming the school's previous facility into a state-of-the-art education institution in the heart of Boston's ever-expanding, diverse Fenway neighborhood. The building is expected to be completed by Spring 2022, and will open for students for the 2022-2023 school year. The new school will accommodate more than 500 students, an increase of nearly 15% from the current student body.

"This amazing school building will serve future generations of the most creative, artistic young minds from every neighborhood of our great city," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "This school is a shining example of what public education can look like, and is a powerful demonstration of the City of Boston's commitment to providing every child with access to an excellent education and a supportive and affirming learning environment."

"Boston Arts Academy has a long tradition of cultivating amazingly talented students and providing them with an enriching and welcoming school community where they can express their creativity and showcase their incredible art," said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. "All BPS students deserve beautiful state-of-the-art facilities like the new Dearborn STEM Academy and the Boston Arts Academy complex. This one-of-a-kind campus is an example of the facilities needed across our city so that all our children have the opportunity to thrive in joyful learning environments. I know the students and our dedicated staff are thrilled that we are one step closer to their new school opening!"

"This is an important milestone for the Boston Arts Academy and the entire City of Boston," said State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, who oversees the Massachusetts School Building Authority. "BAA is the only public school in Boston that combines rigorous training in the visual and performance arts with a strong academic program, ensuring a path for success for its students in their chosen fields. The MSBA partners with Boston and local communities throughout the state, providing resources and support, so more students have the opportunity to learn in 21st century state-of-the-art facilities in order to realize their full potential".

Civic and community leaders were on hand to celebrate the milestone in an outdoor, socially-distanced event that followed all COVID-19 guidelines in place, including Boston Mayor, Martin J. Walsh; Boston City Council President, Kim Janey; BPS School Committee Chair Alexandra Oliver-Dávila; BAA Head of School, Anne Clark; BAA Foundation President, Denella Clark; City of Boston Chief of Operations, Patrick Brophy; Emerson College President and BAA Foundation Board of Directors Chairman, Lee Pelton; Lee Kennedy Company President/CEO and BAA Honors Co-Chair, Lee Michael Kennedy; Massachusetts School Building Authority CEO, Jim MacDonald; and Massachusetts School Building Authority Deputy CEO and Executive Director, Jack McCarthy.

Boston Arts Academy provides arts-intensive academic training for students from every neighborhood in Boston. The school's mission is to prepare a community of aspiring artist-scholar-citizens to be successful in their college or professional careers as well as engaged members of their communities. Ninety-seven percent of the school's 2020 graduates were accepted to college, many becoming the first in their families to do so.

In the days prior to Tuesday's topping-off ceremony, several BAA students had the opportunity to decorate the beam with their art and write messages on it offering words of promise and encouragement to the generations of future students who will learn under the new building's roof. Many BAA teachers, administrators, school officials, caregivers, alumni, worksite labor force and community leaders also contributed notes, forever embedding their messages into the steelwork of the school itself.

"On behalf of the BAA and BPS communities, we are proud of this monumental step in the transformation of this one-of-a-kind school," said Denella Clark, BAA Foundation President. "This building will give our students the chance to learn, explore and dream in a facility worthy of their talents and ambitions. We are grateful to Mayor Walsh and the City, to Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, the BPB, and to our generous supporters who make it possible to provide our students with greater opportunities to further their growth and development as artists, students, and citizens. This unique, long-term investment further shows how important it is for all students in our city to have access to the best facilities that cater to each student's needs and help them thrive personally and academically."

Rendering of Boston Arts Academy at 174 Ipswich Street in Boston.

The new building will expand BAA's space from approximately 121,000 square feet to 153,500 square feet, and it will feature a bold glass façade, theatre marquee, and rooftop green space. The new building will stand five stories tall - an expansion on the previous three - with new and greatly enhanced performance and rehearsal spaces, including a premier 500-seat theater featuring a proscenium stage, a black box theatre, dance studios, music practice rooms, and fashion technology studios and workspaces. These spaces will be outfitted with the latest technologies used by big-name artists and headlining entertainers, thanks to generous donations to the BAA Foundation made by prominent local companies like Avid Technology. The facility will also include a gym and a health and wellness center for students.

Mayor Walsh's $125 million investment in the state-of-the-art facility at the time marked the largest individual school investment under the Walsh Administration. The investment includes $48 million reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). In the past several years Mayor Walsh has strengthened the City of Boston's relationship with the MSBA, leveraging reimbursement to the City to support collaborative work with BPS and the Public Facilities Department.

Other BPS facilities projects in development include the new Carter School in the South End, which is currently in design, and the proposed $193 million state-of-the-art Josiah Quincy Upper School building in Chinatown, which is scheduled to begin construction this summer. In addition, the City has been approved for 27 repair projects, resulting in $41 million in reimbursement from the MSBA at various BPS schools since 2015 to create more energy efficient buildings by replacing roofs, windows and boilers.

About Boston Arts Academy Foundation

Established in 1999, the BAA Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization that raises essential funds from private philanthropic sources to augment the BAA school budget. The BAA Foundation helps bridge the gap between the school's allocation from the Boston Public Schools, and the true cost of a high-quality education that is both arts-intensive and college preparatory. 

Construction of the new BAA school building will not change BPS's funding formula, which supports BAA's academic offerings. BAA Foundation is strengthening the school's long-term financial sustainability through a comprehensive Building Our Future campaign to build its endowment and reserves. Funding supports what makes BAA unique, including expanded programming, the Health and Wellness Program, STEAM (STEM+Art), arts faculty and equipment, as well as college scholarships for graduating seniors. The campaign also supports BAA Foundation's Annual Fund, which raises $5,000 per student each year. Building Our Future will ensure that as BAA's student body grows, the school can provide the resources to help students become successful artists, scholars, and citizens.

About Boston Arts Academy

Founded in 1998 as the city's only public high school for the visual and performing arts, Boston Arts Academy (BAA) has distinguished itself among urban public high schools as a leader in innovative and effective student-centered education. Consistently recognized locally and nationally for its achievements, BAA exemplifies the power of an arts-rich education and many BAA graduates have found success in college through the arts. In fact, for the past six straight years, at least 97 percent of BAA graduates have been accepted to college, with most being first-generation college attendees. BAA's dynamic program prepares graduates to be critical thinkers, effective communicators, collaborators, and creators. Students come from all 23 Boston neighborhoods to receive the formal arts training and academic instruction that will make them Boston's next generation of artists and cultural leaders. 

About Boston Public Schools

The Boston Public Schools (BPS), the birthplace of public education in the United States, serves nearly 52,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 123 schools. BPS is committed to transforming the lives of all children through exemplary teaching in a world-class system of innovative, welcoming schools. We partner with the community, families, and students to develop in every learner the knowledge, skill, and character to excel in college, career, and life.