Celebrating 25 Years of Inspiring Creative Thinkers and Leaders

Founded by Dr. Mark S. Francis in 1995, Arizona School for the Arts has emerged as a nationally recognized 5th – 12th grade school located in the heart of downtown Phoenix’s Arts District, with over 840 students. With each graduating class of impressive creative thinkers and leaders, Arizona School for the Art’s legacy of pioneering an innovative curriculum that interweaves college preparation with the boost of performing arts education continues to grow. Let’s take a look back at how Arizona School for the Arts has evolved over the past 25 years!

1995 – 2005 The First 10 Years

  • 1995

    Arizona School for the Arts opened on August 30, 1995

    Arizona School for the Arts opened on August 30, 1995 in the First Church UCC, with a commitment to inspiring academic and artistic achievement. ASA began with 155 students in grades 7 -10, and was one of Arizona’s first charter schools.

    Founder Dr. Mark S. Francis (center) – Opening Day Celebration – August 30, 1995
  • 1996

    First Showcase Event

    A time-honored tradition, Showcase is one of ASA’s most anticipated events of
    the year. A culminating year-end performance, Showcase, celebrates the growth of our student artists and is centered around the idea that the arts gain meaning when they’re both shared and witnessed.


  • 1995

    ASA commits to a theatre program in its first year

    ASA partners with Phoenix Theatre professional training program and graduates are being accepted to The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Cal Arts, and university theatre programs; they are working in professional productions at Phoenix Theater and earning Actor’s Equity Points. Others are working as professional actors in New York City.

  • 1995

    ASA partners with Ballet Arizona in its first year

    Ten years later and to today: ASA graduates are dancing at American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Rudra-Béjart (Lausanne), Ballet Arizona, and Cirque du Soleil.

    David Hallberg (ASA ‘00) performing in American Ballet Theatre’s “Giselle” 
Photo by Rosalie O’Connor
    Ginger Smith (ASA ‘02) performing in Ballet Arizona’s “Don Quixote.” Choreography by Ib Andersen. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor
  • 1997

    “Annex” Campus Leased

    In just two years, ASA outgrew its space and leased the “Annex” Campus across the street.

    Strings Group
  • 1998

    First graduating class with 7 students

    ASA opened with the goal of placing students in nationally competitive colleges and universities. The first graduating class was just 7 students! Today, ASA graduates more than 90 students per class. Graduates continued to be accepted at top institutions such as Dartmouth, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Brandeis, Georgetown, Wesleyan, Vassar, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Sara Lawrence, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Goucher, and the three Arizona university honors colleges as well as colleges, universities, conservatories.

    ASA’s First Graduating Class – 1998
    Fast Forward: Class of 2019 – College-Signing day
  • 2000

    Throughout ASA’s history, students have been recognized locally and nationally.

    ASA students have been recognized with prestigious awards for academic and arts achievements, receiving awards such as Fulbright Scholar, Presidential Scholar, National Merit Scholar, National Hispanic Scholar, National Achievement Scholarship, Flinn Scholar, Arizona Community Foundation Scholar, and Young Arts Award (4 years in a row).

    Renee Meiffren (ASA ‘00) accepting the Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Gold Medal from President Clinton.
  • 2000

    ASA is recognized as “one of the top four schools in Arizona.”

    ASA is recognized as “one of the top four schools in Arizona” by The Wall Street Journal and “an education powerhouse” by US News and World Report.

  • 2005

    ASA receives highest honors in the State and the Nation

    National Blue Ribbon School, United States Department of Education

    Spotlight on School Success Award, Arizona Department of Education

    Model Dissemination School: ”A Professional Learning Community at Work”

    United States Department of Education National Blue Ribbon
  • 2005

    ASA enrollment grows

    ASA enrollment grows to 370 students and a waiting list of more than 200 students.

2006 – 2010 Growth

  • 2006

    ASA once again outgrows its leased campus space

    ASA once again outgrows its leased campus space (Annex and Church) as demand increases. A Facilities Committee aka “The Dream Team” is established — with real estate, financial, and architectural experts, ASA parents, Board members, and professional affiliations — is established to look for a permanent campus in Phoenix Downtown. After touring close to 20 properties, ASA found its home in its own backyard!

    ASA and First Church UCC
  • 2006

    The first ASA fundraiser “A Sunday Affair”

    “A Sunday Affair” was an elegant Lawn Golf Tournament hosted at the Country Club Manor Estates neighborhood in Phoenix. The community gathered to support ASA and participate in an afternoon of fun, entertainment, games, and food!

  • 2008

    ASA bought and renovated two buildings

    ASA bought and renovated two buildings adjacent to the existing leased campus in three phases, gradually moving from the Annex but staying in the First Church UCC. The two new buildings would eventually become ASA Main and ASA McDowell North.

  • 2009

    November 20, 2009 ASA Main Ribbon Cutting

  • 2009

    First year of adding 5th grade and expanded 6th grade

    ASA grew once again, increasing enrollment by 200 students with the addition of 5th-grade classes and expanding the 6th grade.

  • 2010

    Enrollment has grown to 570 students

    Enrollment has grown to 570 students with an additional class of 7th and 8th grade.

2011 – 2012 Continued Growth and Recognition

  • 2011

    Acquired the empty lot on the corner of 3rd St and McDowell

    Acquired the empty lot on the corner of 3rd St and McDowell to build a 4-story building to become ASA McDowell South, as well as an amphitheater and courtyard space; Enrollment is 686 and growing! The capacity of the campus is set at 860 student artists.

  • 2011

    ASA gets a new gate!

    Parent Nathan Ward designs and creates the iconic ASA gate!

  • 2011

    Awarded GRAMMY Signature School Enterprise Award

    David Sears of the GRAMMY Foundation presented ASA with the GRAMMY Signature Schools Enterprise Award and a check for $5,000. GRAMMY Signature School awards are given to high school music programs that are keeping music programs alive and well.

  • 2011

    The Arizona Diamondbacks presented ASA with the Grand Slam Award

    Through a generous $100,000 Grand Slam Award from the Arizona Diamondbacks, ASA was able to fund two ballet studios in the new McDowell South building.

  • 2011

    ASA’s signature “Showcase” performance draws in large crowds!

    To accommodate the crowds, ASA’s signature “Showcase” performance grew into two performances and held at the Orpheum Theatre.

  • 2012

    ASA was the recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award

    The Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Arts in Education recognizes philanthropy and outstanding efforts of individuals and organizations contributing to the diversity and excellence of Arizona’s arts and cultural community.

    Board Member John Snider and Head of School/CEO Leah Fregulia, Governor’s Arts Award
  • 2012

    ASA celebrated the opening of new campus buildings and student courtyard

    On April 20, 2012, ASA celebrated the opening of new campus buildings and student courtyard with an all‐school carnival and open‐air concert featuring Phoenix jazz and blues legend, Dennis Rowland, who performed with the ASA Jazz Orchestra. Mayor Greg Stanton gave congratulatory remarks and cited the excelling educational model and rich Downtown Phoenix arts environment provided by ASA.

  • 2012

    ASA welcomed its largest student body to date

    ASA welcomed its largest student body to date; educating nearly 800 students, 5th – 12th grade.

2013 – 2019

  • 2013 - 2018

    Arizona Department of Education designates ASA as an Arizona Civic Engagement School

    Arizona Department of Education designates ASA as an Arizona Civic Engagement School that demonstrates an excellent understanding and systemic implementation of the six proven practices in civic learning — and then every year there after that the recognition program has been offered!

  • 2015

    ASA celebrates 20 years

    ASA celebrates 20 years with the OVATION Gala at the Bentley Galleries in Downtown Phoenix.

  • 2017

    Senior Class Leaders of 2017 worked with artist Joan Baron to create a Senior Legacy gift

    Senior Class Leaders of 2017 worked with artist Joan Baron to create a Senior Legacy gift to enhance ASA’s campus. The mosaic artwork is inspired by the Class of 2017 — the first 5th-grade class and ASA’s unintended mascot — a persistent one-legged pigeon, affectionately named “Stumpy” who would often visit the class in the ASA courtyard and serve as inspiration that no matter what adversity they face in college and beyond, they will persist, take flight and soar above like Stumpy.

  • 2019

    Xico Cultura y Artes recognizes ASA with the Virginia E Cárdenas Arts Advocate Award

    On March 1, 2019, Xico Cultura y Artes recognizes ASA with the Virginia E Cárdenas Arts Advocate Award honoring those who have distinguished themselves as advocates for the arts.

    ASA board members and administrators at the Xico Annual Dinner & Art Auction accepting the 2019 Virginia E Cárdenas Arts Advocate Award.
  • 2019

    Mayor Gallego proclaimed this day as Arizona School for the Arts Day

    On May 30, 2019, Mayor Gallego proclaimed this day as Arizona School for the Arts Day in recognition of the academic and artistic accomplishments of ASA students and the dedication and hard work of teachers and staff.

  • 2019

    ASA initiates the Phoenix Youth Arts Collective

    ASA initiated its work to foster greater connectivity within the Youth Arts community and established the Phoenix Youth Arts Collective (PYAC) that convenes emerging and established arts organizations and youth to explore opportunities to grow the depth, breadth, and access to arts education in our City. Seven partners – Harmony Project, Sounds Academy, Phoenix Music Conservatory, Phoenix Center for the Arts, Phoenix Children’s Chorus, and Phoenix Youth Symphony will continue to build and grow the movement to expand diverse arts opportunities for young people and artists in Phoenix.

  • 2019

    ASA continues to be a vibrant school community of 850 students and families

    ASA continues to be a vibrant school community of 850 students and families from across the Valley with over 300 students on a waiting list, and 77 full and part-time faculty!

2020 and Beyond

  • Feb 2020

    Arts Congress

    ASA students advocate for arts education, along with arts and culture patrons, educators, business people, and arts leaders at Arts Congress, to speak directly to their state legislators about the importance of support and funding for arts and culture in our state.

  • Mar 2020

    Virtual learning begins

    Like the rest of the world, ASA was adjusting to a new reality and way of living, during a pandemic. As we quickly transitioned school online, teachers and students worked tirelessly to keep the connection and learning alive. We could have never imagined that we were in the midst of historic times that would require our entire community to draw upon our most resilient, creative, and collaborative values or that it would be a full year before a safe and responsible return to campus would even be possible. 

  • May 2020

    Virtual Showcase and Socially Distanced Graduation

    ASA celebrated the resiliency of students and their spectacular teachers through a virtual Showcase with the inspiring theme of Together We Rise Up, a fitting tribute to the ASA community adapting, creating, and connecting in the face of many challenges. The new virtual format allowed us to share Showcase with many families and alumni across the world! Then, we celebrated the Class of 2020 with the school’s first-ever virtual graduation and live stream socially distanced diploma ceremony on campus.  

    Showcase 2020
    Graduation 2020
  • June & July 2020

    Students organized protests and events across the Valley in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement

    Throughout this historically significant year, students, faculty/staff, senior leadership, and board members alike, worked together to initiate a variety of projects and events addressing equity and inclusion such as the Healing History Speaker Series, All Land Is Indigenous Student Project, Black Lives Matter Protests, a virtual Foreign Language Festival and much more. ASA’s commitment to awareness and educational initiatives like these, not only strengthened our community but also solidified our ongoing efforts to provide an equitable learning and teaching environment that celebrates the diversity of all our students, teachers, staff, and families.

  • Aug 2020

    Beginning a new school year like never before

    Beginning a new school year like never before in full distanced learning mode. The entire ASA community called upon its most resilient, creative, and collaborative values to keep learning and creating alive! Many time-honored school traditions and student experiences were reimagined, like the Tunnel of Love for our Senior Class.

  • Sept 2020

    National Youth Arts Awards Recognition

    ASA Theatre productions have earned 6 awards and 11 nominations for the 2019-2020 National Youth Arts Awards. Bravo! 

  • APR 2021

    Return to Campus

    After one year of remote learning – students, faculty, and staff were excited to return to campus and eager to learn, grow, connect, and be present with one another for the final quarter! As we welcomed one another back with eye smiles, air hugs, and socially distanced high fives, it was a warm reminder that the community we create at ASA is more important than ever.

  • April 2021

    Arts Recognition

    ASA is proud to recognize 18 seniors and 1 junior who completed the Arizona State Seal of Arts Proficiency! This seal is added to their graduation diploma and recognizes mastery of Arizona arts education standards, artistic literacy, and skills for 21st-century success in the application to all fields of study. In addition, ASA had 8 students successfully audition into AMEA All-State Bands, Orchestras, and Choirs!