Fine arts should be a pathway at South Gwinnett


SGHS Orchestra performs with Marvin Sapp. Photo courtesy: Ms. Erma Davis

Malachi Ferguson and Zeniya Buggs

Atlanta, Georgia is the hotspot for any and everything fine arts. Because of Georgia’s competitive costs and lower tax rates, more production companies are now looking to find space and talent in Georgia rather than California. A lot of people even refer to Atlanta as “The Hollywood of the South” or “The New Hollywood”. Gwinnett County is considered the metro-Atlanta area with quick access to the city and populated with creative minds who seek an opportunity to make it big. According to the Georgia Council for the Arts, “the creative industries in Georgia represent a combined $37 billion in revenue, including 200,000 employees earning $12.1 billion in wages.” Georgia’s creative community is thriving and draws in millions of talent scouts each year. So not having a pathway for fine arts available for students at South Gwinnett is only hindering passionate students from their full potential.

South Gwinnett is an academy school that focuses on equipping students with the knowledge and skills to help them in their post-high school endeavors. Courses in fine arts provide nearly 1,400 students the opportunity to learn more about dance, theater, music, and visual arts. Although South Gwinnett has many classes for students to actively engage in different areas of Fine Arts, they do not currently offer an academy to fully integrate academics with a more intensive study of these creative industries.

Having a Fine Arts Pathway would allow students to enhance their skills and progress without the interference of other courses. For example, Harmonee Thomas (11), a flutist, who after five years of being involved in a band program was forced to drop the program. She explains that she came from Discovery High School where she fulfilled her CTAE credits with a fine arts pathway. However, after transferring to South Gwinnett, the school informed her that she had to complete a pathway offered at South and that fine arts was not an option. She was placed in a pathway that she did not want to be in and is less engaged with the content. Other students have been in similar situations and if change is not made, many will continue to be forced to select pathways that they do not truly see value in. When students are forced to take courses, but lack interest in it’s content, this can negatively impact their attendance, participation, grades, and overall engagement in the pathway that should be preparing them for their next chapter. However, with an assigned fine arts pathway, students will be able to stay consistent and hone in on their skills throughout high school.

Fine Arts is extremely beneficial to students seeking to showcase their talent and to open doors for post high school opportunities. Ms. Erma Davis, the director of Orchestra, shares that South’s Orchestra was invited to perform with Grammy nominated, Dr. Marvin Sapp, earlier this year. Opportunities like this gives students the exposure and the experience of being fully emerged in the artistic society. Even without a pathway, students who are truly invested in fine arts are steadily finding ways to put both themselves and their school on the map. For example, Prhust Saleh, a junior in our school’s orchestra, won the Georgia Music Education Association (GMEA) Composition Contest with an original piece, Al-Shams. Saleh explains that through the implementation of a pathway dedicated to fine arts, he would be able to refine his craft and create more opportunities for the future.

Fine Arts is important because it exposes us to culture and it helps improve emotional expression for both the artist and their audience. Arts are a vital part of our country’s culture and SGHS is in close proximity to where this industry thrives. Despite the circumstances hindering the fine arts program at South, there have been many successes stemming from the courses. However, through the support of our school implementing a fine arts pathway, South Gwinnett can enhance the education of fine arts and open more opportunities for a better future for a multitude of students.