Urban Land Conservancy celebrates the achievements of our partnerships that create and preserve nonprofit facilities and affordable housing for communities.

ULC’s Monthly Partner Spotlight shines a light on partners who demonstrate the value of collaboration, furthering our mission to improve the lives of Metro Denver residents and beyond through our real estate investments and community assets.

Congratulations to our September 2021 Partner Spotlight of the Month: Denver School Arts.

In the late 1980s, arts began disappearing from many public school curriculums. A group of community visionaries worried that students’ overall academic success would suffer without the arts, so they developed the concept for a magnet arts school. With support from government and civic leaders, volunteers, and individuals dedicated to the arts, the initiative was accepted by DPS in 1990. Denver School of the Arts (DSA) opened the following year in 1991. 

DSA is a comprehensive secondary arts magnet school (grades 6-12) within Denver Public Schools. In addition to a rigorous academic program, students engage in intensive studies in Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Stagecraft and Design, Theatre, Video Cinema Arts, and Visual Arts. 

Over the past 20 years, the school has continually evolved. What started as 200 students have now grown into 1,000-plus middle and high schools with over 40 dedicated faculty. DSA is recognized among the nation’s best 21st-century schools. They have continued their visions to engage and foster the expression of creativity and wonderment through the education of the whole child and are committed to promoting a lifelong love of the arts in a culturally diverse, academically challenging environment.

“As a very creative individual, the second Sylvie (a current 7th-grade student at DSA) learned about DSA, she wanted to get in no matter what,” said Erin Bodine, Sylvie’s mom. “I have been so impressed by DSA now that we’re in our second year— it is a school that fosters her creative growth while also challenging her academically. I love that the students learn every aspect of being an artist. DSA is teaching true entrepreneurial skills that will turn our kids into community leaders and is setting them up for success in the future.” 

“My favorite project so far has been claymation,” said Sylvie, current 7th grader at DSA. “I got to combine my passion for art with my love for acting by both making the claymation scenes and doing voiceovers!” 

In June of this year, ULC purchased the former Johnson & Wales University Campus (Park Hill Campus) in partnership with Denver Public Schools (DPS) and the Denver Housing Authority (DHA). As part of DPS’s expansion onto the campus, DSA will also move onto the campus to increase student enrollment.

“When I heard that the [Johnson & Wales] University would be selling the property right across the street, I began thinking about how DSA might expand to the campus to serve more students,” said Dr. Anthony McWright, Principal of Denver School of the Arts. The expansion will allow DSA to accept 500 to 700 additional students over time, focusing on equity and inclusion of low-income students and students of color. The west campus includes the Wildcat Center, Whatley Chapel, Academic Center, and Aspen Hall.

“We acknowledge the foresight of Dr. Anthony McWright (DSA’s Executive Principal) for seeing this opportunity to expand DSA to serve more students and for contacting ULC to partner with DPS for that purpose and more community-serving uses. We look forward to transforming this to serve the community,” says Aaron Miripol, ULC President & CEO. 

DSA will require renovations to prepare buildings for the unique needs of music, dance, and theater programming and plans to start classes on the campus in the 2022-23 school year. Every year, DSA inspires a new set of students and yields exemplary results in academics and the arts, with nearly 100% placement of its graduates into post-secondary colleges, universities, or conservatory programs. Its legacy now spans a millennium and lives on in the hundreds of young artists that it has prepared to become life-long contributors to and supporters of the arts. We are excited to watch DSA grow on the Park Hill Campus. 

On September 24th, 2021, The DSA Friends Foundation, in partnership with ULC, will be hosting a Community Block Party to celebrate the new direction of the Park Hill Campus. The celebration will be full of community-oriented activities, including food trucks, performances from DSA students in various formats, and a finale performance from the New Orleans Jazz Band. We hope you can join us!