Art in school

ICDA Charter High School’s new building

Marty Lewis is choreographer at ICDA Charter School; in the background, construction workers install the first few slates of wood for the new dance floor.

Marty Lewis is choreographer at ICDA Charter School; in the background, construction workers install the first few slates of wood for the new dance floor.

Photo By David Calvert

Two and a half weeks until the first day of school, I Can Do Anything Charter High School was far from having all the amenities built into its new building. The dance floor was coming on Friday, and the stage and phone system would be set up after that. Administrators and teachers had been helping to prep the new structure for all the changes—tearing up the carpet, scraping the floor, drilling, vacuuming, and anything else necessary to make the building suitable for arts-based education.

The campus addition is across the street from the current ICDA building at 1195 Corporate Blvd., and it means students will no longer have to make the trek to Nevada Performing Arts on Greg Street to practice dance and other theatrical arts that require larger-than-classroom space. It will also give students the opportunity to take media and photography classes from new teacher Mike Patterson because there will be an actual media room. An art room, choir room, costume room and offices will also be part of the new building.

“We’re setting up a control room facing onto the stage so we’ll be able to record performances,” Patterson said. “I’d like to establish a relationship with SNCAT, so we can broadcast some of these school performances on cable.”

The dance floor will be 2,065 square feet, and ICDA is getting it at a bargain price from the local company Floorcraft. Charter schools typically receive school supplies (computers, desks, cabinets, phones, paper) through donations, grants and scraping and scrounging. A lot of the furniture in the new building was left behind when the previous occupants left.

Jill Wells, principal at ICDA, said the new building is a needed incentive to keep kids interested in school. “We have found in these past six years we’ve been open that they are very artistic, very creative kids. … There’s such a strong push in Reno for art—we’ve got Artown—and that artistic drive filters into the schools. We’re chartered to serve at-risk kids. We need to think of ways to keep them in school and help them graduate.”

Marty Lewis, choreographer at ICDA, said having a dance floor that is actually part of the campus will make it easier to do more performances during the year, and it will allow the school to have a dance team that can perform at different school events. The first performance piece of the year will be a dance done in conjunction with a local rape prevention group.

“The concept of rape will all be done through dance—how girls feel about being approached, about being attacked,” Lewis said. “Then, we’ll be getting together with English and drama teachers to see where we want to go with musicals later in the year.”

ICDA typically tries to perform original material that is partially composed and choreographed by students, so don’t expect your typical high school plays. There will be no Godspell or Bye Bye Birdie.

“We want a broader appeal,” Wells said. “We want to broaden the appeal of the arts to the entire population of the school, through media, dance, drama, writing, rap, whatever.”

Although ICDA is chartered to serve at-risk kids, Wells asks what child isn’t "at-risk" these days. ICDA is for children who are sick of the typical high-school cliques, are fond of any type of art, and are looking for flexible school hours within a system that still adheres to Washoe County School District standards. ICDA was already bringing art into the classroom, and now, with a whole new arts-centric building, it’s probably more accurate to say that ICDA brings the classroom into art.