The Real Fame School
By Susan Dolgen
ABOVE: A student choreographer leads an InnerSpark dance class during the 2008 session.
Remember Fame, the film and television show from the ’80s? Energetic high school students danced their way through the hallways of New York’s High School of Performing Arts. Well, soon after the television series was developed in 1982, a group of legislative, arts, and industry leaders worked together to establish a Fame summer school on the West Coast and dubbed it InnerSpark.
InnerSpark, California State Summer School for the Arts is a place where students live their passion. Every year, a select group of teens have the opportunity to live on campus at CalArts in Valencia for a month to sing, dance, paint, act, write, make films, and create animated shorts.
Students who attend InnerSpark are selected on the basis of talent and are then integrated into a pool of artists from every county in California. Since its inception, more than 10,000 students have spent a portion of the summer attending the program.
Involvement in InnerSpark can result in lifelong friendships— and better yet, boundless opportunities for internships, college credit, and even college scholarships. The Herb Alpert Foundation has committed $1,250,000 towards college scholarships available only to InnerSpark students. Participation also enables students to earn the title of California Arts Scholar and be presented with a Governor’s Arts Scholar medallion, which is the highest distinction in California for arts students.
Graduates include James Franco, who starred in Milk and was nominated for a Golden Globe this year for his role in Pineapple Express; artist Matthew Monahan, who recently had a solo show at MOCA LA; and American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee.
I have been a supporter and board member of InnerSpark for 20 years; other board members include founder Wendy Goldberg, Jamie Tisch, Jamie McGurk, Ruth Bloom, Chrisette Hudlin, and Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi.
I have seen the positive effects one incredible summer at InnerSpark can have on students. It provides them with an environment that nurtures their talent while making them self-aware and confident. Can you imagine sending your teenager to InnerSpark and having them return with a fantastic experience, lifelong friends, and a college scholarship? It almost makes me wish I was a teenager again. Visit innerspark.us.
photograph by Harris Hartsfield