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BOSTON ARTS ACADEMY’S NEW BUILDING TO BE NAMED AFTER CULTURAL ICON DR. ELMA LEWIS
BOSTON -- Wednesday, May 24, 2023 -- Boston Public Schools officially will rename Boston Arts Academy's new school building, officially opened for the 2022-2023 school year, in honor of the esteemed arts educator and local pioneer, Dr. Elma Lewis. This momentous decision coincides with the school's 25th anniversary, adding to the significance of the occasion.
"The Boston Arts Academy is an example of what's possible when we create spaces that empower our young people to be their truest selves," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "That ethos has guided the BAA since its founding 25 years ago and it’s an ethos that no one embodies more than the incredible Dr. Elma Lewis. Today's celebration to rename the building after Dr. Lewis is an important step not only for this building and the young people who will have the opportunities to share their gifts with the world through their education here but for the entire city and beyond."
The naming of the building was one of 27 proposed named spaces throughout the school, each intended to pay tribute to individuals who have made substantial contributions to both the Boston Arts Academy (BAA) and the broader Boston community. The Boston School Committee unanimously approved the proposal for the building renaming December 14, 2022, as a testament to Dr. Elma Lewis's extraordinary impact.
"Dr. Lewis was a pillar of the arts community here in Boston," said Superintendent Mary Skipper. "This building carries more than a name. It's a legacy of grace, grit, and joy. Dr. Lewis was a tireless champion of young people and the arts in education. She advocated for many types of music and arts programs so that young people and those from underserved communities could experience the joy and freedom that comes from creativity. In light of all of that, this is such a fitting tribute to a Boston icon and BPS is so proud that one of our schools with help to continue her monumental legacy."
The Boston Arts Academy Foundation's Building Our Future campaign played a vital role in this initiative. This comprehensive six-year, $32 million campaign has been instrumental in elevating the visibility of Boston Arts Academy and ensuring the sustainability of its unique education model. We are deeply grateful for the overwhelming support received from the community throughout the campaign, which included dozens of personal letters of endorsement from elected officials, community leaders, influencers, alumni, caregivers, parents, and other members of the Boston Arts Academy community.
"Dr. Lewis was an educator of excellence, who not only demanded excellence but believed in the excellent of all young people, especially young people of color here in Boston," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson. "In this city, there are very few buildings named after women of color, and I am proud to see BAA renamed for Dr. Elma Lewis."
Dr. Elma Lewis' impact as an arts educator and her commitment to fostering racial equity in our community is unparalleled. As a two-time recipient of the MacArthur Genius Fellow Grant and a 28-time honorary doctorate awardee, her contributions have extended far beyond the boundaries of Boston. Her remarkable work was recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 when she received the Presidential Medal of the Arts.
While her influence has been felt on a national level, the heart of Dr. Lewis' legacy resides in Boston. In 1950, she founded The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, where students received a multi-disciplinary arts education and developed into community leaders. Dr. Lewis also established the National Center of Afro-American Artists and initiated a Technical Theatre Program, providing Massachusetts inmates with opportunities to participate in theater performances.
"We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Elma Lewis's family, friends, and admirers on this well-deserved honor," said Boston Arts Academy Head of School Anne Clark. "The Boston Arts Academy community is proud to honor the legacy of Dr. Elma Lewis as we continue to foster artistic growth and community engagement for years to come."
Boston Arts Academy stands as an institution for students to express themselves and lean on their community for support. The newly constructed state-of-the-art building exemplifies this commitment, featuring complete renovations in technology for dance, fashion, and fine art studios, professional theaters and rehearsal spaces, and a high-tech STEAM lab. We are proud to emphasize that this building is not only open to Boston Arts Academy students and faculty but also to local artists and performers who seek to utilize the space. However, it is important to note that while the building itself is a testament to progress, the funding model remains unchanged, with Boston Arts Academy Foundation providing the necessary support for its arts programming.