The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts will be 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Muscogee County School District announced Tuesday, the day before the event.
A guided preview of the school will be offered, according to MCSD’s news release.
“While the school will certainly produce talented artists, its primary mission is to foster creativity and innovation to enhance whatever career field these students pursue,” MCSD superintendent David Lewis said in the news release.
The school is at 1700 Midtown Drive, behind the Columbus Public Library and the Columbus Aquatic Center off Macon Road and next to Rigdon Road Elementary School.
The $36 million project has produced a three-story, 118,500-square-foot facility. Hecht Burdeshaw of Columbus is the architect, and Brasfield Gorrie of Columbus is the construction contractor. The funding comes from the 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax county voters renewed in 2003, 2009 and 2015.
“We are extremely grateful to the citizens of Muscogee County for their support of the SPLOST, which funds this exciting addition to our school district and community,” Lewis said in the news release. “This school is yet another testament to our community’s commitment to progress, the arts and public education.”
The school comprises a 650-seat auditorium with a balcony, a mini theater, a black-box theater, a recital hall, an outdoor studio, dance studios and film editing rooms. It is designed to educate approximately 500 students (275-300 in middle school and about 200 in high school) but will open Aug. 7 with grades 6-10 and add 11th grade next year and 12th grade the following year. This year’s enrollment hasn’t been available yet.
Admission for middle school students was based on an application and recommendations. Admission for high school students also required an audition or portfolio assessment, depending on the discipline in which the student wants to focus.
Programs are expected to include music (band, chorus, guitar, orchestra and piano), dance (classical and modern), theater, technical theater, musical theater, visual art (2-D, 3-D, sculpture and photography), film and creative writing.
“A formal dedication program and open house is anticipated in the fall to celebrate and thank the community for this long-awaited vision that is now a reality,” the news release says.
The Muscogee County School Board, in a controversial 5-4 vote in January, named the school in honor of two famous Columbus natives.
Ma Rainey (1886-1939) was known as the “Mother of the Blues” and was born and buried in Columbus. She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor.
Carson McCullers (1917-1967), a Columbus native, wrote five novels, including her bestselling debut, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” as well as two plays and 20 short stories. Her work is considered classically Southern Gothic, and her writing continues to be taught in classrooms as one of America’s critically acclaimed authors.
Their former homes in Columbus have been turned into facilities honoring their legacies and attracting visitors: the Ma Rainey House and Blues Museum, 805 Fifth Ave., and the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, 1519 Stark Ave.