The courses include Shakespeare, voice,
improvisation, creative drama and auditioning
techniques. "The skills we're teaching here can
be used in the professional world," Lewis says.
While the school is independent, it has links to
the public system. Lewis, for example, sits on
the arts advisory committee for the Ottawa
Carleton District School Board. Occasionally the
theatre school joins with public schools on
Private schools offer a learning environment
that appeals to talented students who may feel
restricted by the public system, Lewis says.
"There are no marks here: students set their own
personal standard," she says. "There is a
different feel because everyone here wants to be
Smaller class sizes allow instructors to
focus on the individual talents and weaknesses
of the 1,000-plus students -- of all ages -- who
attend classes from September to May or at
"There is one arts high school in Ottawa and
it's not there for everybody," she says. "There
are a lot more students in our city that need
arts enrichment then can get it."
Jeff Stellick, the executive director at the
Ottawa School of Art, says his organization
helps fill a void in areas not taught in many
The school, in the Byward Market, offers
classes in sculpture, painting, drawing,
ceramics, printmaking and computer graphics.
Students -- who range from children to senior
citizens -- pay their own tuition fees, but
bursaries are often available for children of
low-income families. Many of the 50 to 60
full-time and part-time instructors are
professional artists, and others teach in the
"You develop judgment when you're painting
and drawing," Stellick says. "Students learn
that problems have more than one solution and
there is more than one answer to a question.
They learn to give themselves up to the
Some Ottawa high school students make special
arrangements with their principals to earn
credits through the Ottawa School of Art. The
school also has an outreach program that brings
free arts classes into poorer communities, where
arts facilities are limited and public schools
often face restricted arts budgets.
With high school students facing a condensed
four-year curriculum and less timetable space
for arts electives, one education expert feels
Ottawa's specialty schools should play a larger
role in public education.
Annalee Adair, the national coordinator of
ArtsSmarts, which funds arts education across
the country, says community schools and
organizations should be allowed to offer high
school credits. Students could earn credits
outside school, offering more flexibility with
their academic timetables.