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SAVAPA: Grant will fund Southwest arts program indefinitely

February 07, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH, Staff Writer

The Southwest Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts moved one step further from the image of "starving artists" as it received a state Department of Education grant last month funding the program indefinitely.

Described as a "very, very competitive grant" by SAVAPA site coordinator Debra Buchanan, the funding amounts to $42,000 for the remainder of this year, $71,000 for next year and $81,000 for each year after that indefinitely.

The California Partnership Academy grant is one of just 20 given in the entire state and the only one for implementation of the performing arts.

"It's a very, very exciting thing," Buchanan said.

The money will help provide additional equipment, professional and curricular development and field trips, Buchanan said.

"The field trips are one of our biggest strengths," Buchanan said.

SAVAPA students make frequent trips out of Imperial Valley to watch live performances, take backstage tours and attend workshops.

Focusing on theatre, dance and music, SAVAPA, based at Southwest High School in El Centro, partners with local and San Diego businesses to create a cross-curricular emphasis to enrich students' learning experiences.

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For the past four years a specialized secondary program grant has been funding SAVAPA. In its first year, SAVAPA received $100,000 and has received decreasing amounts each year since, Buchanan said.

This is SAVAPA's fourth and final year to receive money from the SSP grant.

The academy has become a model for other performing arts programs in the state as several representatives from other schools are making plans to visit, Buchanan said.

What's more, SAVAPA has been invited to perform later this year at the State Partnership Academy Conference in Los Angeles, Buchanan said.

SAVAPA "provides a community for students that emphasizes and focuses on their talents," Buchanan said.

The program enrolls 77 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors but is looking to increase its numbers, Buchanan said.

"It's not just for Southwest students. Any student in the Imperial Valley can apply," Buchanan said.

Randy Carson, program manager for the Imperial County Arts Council, one of SAVAPA's business partners, is "absolutely delighted" by the new grant and the program's continuation.

"The showcase of talent is incredible. It's just amazing what those kids are able to do," Carson said.

"It makes a career in the arts more attainable," Carson said.

Former SAVAPA students he's seen at Imperial Valley College where he taught in the theatre department "really stand out as being better-prepared," Carson said.

Staff Writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3442.

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