The Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, known unofficially as Grand Arts High School, is a magnet, public high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is located on the site of the old Fort Moore at the corner of Grand Avenue and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to Chinatown. The school's distinctive architecture has made the facility noteworthy beyond the Los Angeles area.
The school reserves 1,200 enrollment slots for students in the surrounding area and the rest from across the district. Admission requires no prior training or auditions and there is no tuition or fees.
The school's principal is Ken Martinez and, as of August 2013, the school's executive artistic director is Kim "New York" Bruno (former principal of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts).
The school offers a full range of standard academic programs as well as specialty programs in four arts academies:Dance Academy
Visual Arts Academy
When the school opened on September 9, 2009, it was known as Central Los Angeles High School #9. Suzanne Blake was its first principal. In June, 2011, the school board renamed the school in honor of then-former school district superintendent Ramon C. Cortines. As of 2014, it has been unofficially called Grand Arts High School.
The school has been featured in several commercials, films, and photo shoots. Most recently, the school released a music video in Summer of 2015 called, "Dream It! Do It!" which was Directed and Choreographed by Debbie Allen. The music video was produced and conceived by the school's principal, Kim Bruno. "Dream It! Do It!" featured both Grand Arts and Debbie Allen Dance Academy students showcasing the importance of the arts in the Los Angeles community.
Norman Isaacs, the school's former principal, resigned in protest over what he termed inadequate funding for the school.
According to US News and World Report, 89% of Ramon C. Cortines' student body is "of color," with 77% of the student body coming from economically disadvantaged households, determined by student eligibility for California's Reduced-price meal program.
The school occupies a 9.9 acre block in downtown Los Angeles at the north end of the city's "Grand Avenue Cultural Corridor," which also includes the Disney Concert Hall, the Los Angeles Music Center, the Colburn School of Music, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Broad Art Museum. The facility includes seven buildings totaling 238,000 square feet (22,110 m2). The final costs for construction were $171.9 million and for the entire project $232 million
The facility was designed by the project team of HMC Architects (Architect-of-Record) and the Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au (Designer-of-Record). They were selected through a design competition in September 2002. In 2006, ground was broke on the school.
The design has been controversial, with descriptions such as "bold", "unconventional", its forms "stunning" and "a testament to the provocative power of art;" its interior spaces given "a surprisingly rich range of personalities", "prosaic," "almost barracks-like;" its classrooms "confined and airless," and the cafeteria "cave-like." Its most iconic form, a tower over the performing arts building, is a unique and highly visible sculptural form, intended to provide a point of identification and a symbol for the arts in the city. It was envisioned to be a public space accessed via the ramp that winds around the tower with a viewing platform on top. School officials objected and so it remains inaccessible and a non-functional sculptural form.
An excerpt from Hawthorne's "Starchitecture High" states: "What…the school has taught [its students] about the architecture is not so much what they like and dislike about the design, or about what works and what doesn't, but rather the surprising and ultimately thrilling ways in which their high school campus reminds them of themselves and their peers. Like them it is something of a proud outcast: gangly, dreamy, and beautiful at the same time, trying to make its way in a culture that prizes familiarity over strangeness and sameness over individuality. For a teenager who dreams of becoming an artist or a dancer, and has maybe not always found that ambition popular or easily understood by others in his family or neighborhood, what kind of campus could be better?"
The campus has seven buildings, an outdoor swimming pool, and a full-sized athletic playfield.
Building #1 includes the main entry and administration offices as well as the Dance Academy.
Building #2 is the cone-shaped building that incorporates the library. The pipes burst in 2013 and they never fixed it, exposing the children to toxic fecal matter. They forced kids to be in there and many of them became ill.
Building #3 includes the Visual Arts Academy and the Theatre Academy.
Building #4 includes a 927-seat performing arts theater used for assemblies, plays, and concerts. This is the building that is shaped in the form of the number 9 for the school's old name CLAHS#9. This building also includes the Black Box Theater which can accommodate 250 people. The tower and spiraling form sit on top of this building and a main public entry for after-hours use are located at the west corner of the site.
Building #5 includes the Music Academy.
Building #6 includes the kitchen and eating area for the students. It is located in the center of the campus.
Building #7 includes the Gymnasium, locker rooms, support spaces, dance studios, an air-conditioned indoor basketball court, a weight room, and a parking garage.