Jordan Ori

Last month, it was announced that New York City’s Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS), which provides students with middle school and high school theatre education and has prestigious alumni, such as Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Jesse Eisenberg and Jeremy Allen White, was facing detrimental budget cuts. Specifically, the school’s drama program, run through the theatre company “Waterwell,” would end on April 12, 2024 for the rest of the school year unless they could raise $80,000. In the middle school program, students take classes across the performing arts spectrum, while high schoolers choose to major in dance, drama, film, musical theatre or vocal. The impact of the program suspension would have left middle school students without the drama portion of their education and high school drama majors without performing arts entirely. As a former PPAS drama major, this news shook me. It enraged me that students who specifically auditioned for this school to get dramatic training would no longer be able to perform.

Seventh-grade students quickly took action and organized a GoFundMe aimed at raising $102,000 to cover the $80,000 needed to continue with extra funds to support next year’s programs. In the fundraiser’s description, they wrote a heartfelt plea for financial help, writing, “​​This affects hundreds of students and we are heartbroken to have such a horrible thing happen. Please help donate to bring back our program that brought many students joy and made their dreams come true.” As I write this, the fundraiser is still accepting donations and has raised nearly $60,000. Additionally, alumni Alicia Keys partnered with Jay Z’s record company Roc Label to pledge an additional $60,000, raising the total amount to nearly $120,000 and ensuring the program continues running. Although the PPAS drama program was salvaged, the situation serves as a glaring reminder that the arts are not taken seriously in school administration.

This trend of scrapping and de-funding arts programs is seen across the nation, and it all boils down to the fact that the arts are not seen as important in the American education system. In an article by Alex Ates for Backstage Magazine, it was noted that in January 2024, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts announced an impending closure of bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts programs while, in February, student walkouts at the Denver School of Arts protested faculty layoffs.

Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to attend one of New York City’s famous performing arts schools. I was over the moon when I got into the PPAS drama conservatory program, but it soon dawned on me how little attention is given to performing arts programs. It immediately felt like I was hearing murmurings from other students about potential debt and budget cuts. In fact, according to a study done by Gitnux, only 3.2 percent of the United States education budget is dedicated to the arts, and that small amount decreases every decade.

It’s not that education departments necessarily want to get rid of the arts in general, but when a school is faced with financial struggles, the art programs are likely the first to go. However, arts and STEM classes are both needed to balance a student’s education. The arts teach students confidence, expression and creativity and, in many cases, help mental health. While at PPAS, acting was an escape that satisfied my creative appetite and brought me closer to my peers. Being on a stage taught me not to be afraid of using my voice while working with partners on scenes taught me teamwork.

The arts are the backbone of our society in many ways, and nothing brings people together like a shared taste in music and film. Students studying performing arts across the globe now will be tomorrow’s greatest creative minds, and they should not have to feel like their passions do not matter. It is time to stop giving arts programs the short end of the stick.

Jordan Ori is an undeclared sophomore. 

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