The Fine Arts Academy (FAA) at McCallum provides a program for students across Austin to pursue an accelerated arts curriculum as fine arts majors. FAA attracts a diverse student body from across the city, including students from private and parochial schools. The idea for a Fine Arts high school for Austin was inspired by Ruth Denney, who founded Houston's High School for Performing and Visual Arts after retiring as a professor at UT Austin. Partly as a result of Denney's involvement, McCallum Fine Arts Academy was embraced by UT College of Fine Arts (COFA) from its inception and a strong partnership with COFA continues today. Austin ISD supports the Academy with funding for additional staffing and technology to support the arts curricula.
By creating a high school with a fine arts focus for Austin, the Academy has created mutually supportive partnerships with arts organizations and artists across the region.
It was in consultation with UT College of Fine Arts (COFA) that a curriculum of rigorous arts coursework was initially developed for MFAA majors, incuding one of the few non drill-team based dance programs in the state. Advanced dancers will study both ballet and modern, and guest choreographers often set pieces included in dance productions.
MFAA's classical guitar program, the first in AISD, received curriculum and coaching support from Austin Classical Guitar Society . Another significant partnership provides wind ensemble, orchestra, and piano students weekly professional coaching provided by the Austin Chamber Music Center. All vocal and instrumental music majors study both Piano, and AP Music Theory. Visual Arts majors must have honors or AP Studio as well as Advanced Placement Art History. Upper level dance majors gain experience staging and choreographing. Senior theatre majors, who may choose to major in either performance or technical theatre, often direct and stage productions.
The success of FAA is well-known, with recognitions earned by Academy majors from every strand. Exceptional work by MFAA artists, actors, dancers and musicians has received national recognition. MFAA musicians earned the national GRAMMY Signature School for Excellence in Music Education and Recording Arts recognition and have performed on the stage of the Long Center and Carnegie Hall. Dance students attained new heights with choreography of the Blue Lapis aerial dance company. Theatre students have taken the international stage at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh (2007) and at the National Theatre of Costa Rica (2010). Three of 27 Texas Young Masters (two artists and a classical guitarist) chosen state-wide by Texas Commission on the Arts were from McCallum and received renewable grants for summer art studies in-state, nationally, and abroad, and many All State artists and Texas Outstanding Musicians hail from MFAA. Academy graduates in all strands are attending colleges and universities acrosss the US, and many are receiving significant scholarships.
MFAA's future is evolving with AISD support. The program now serves 500 students and faculty, curriculum and fine arts facilities are expanding to meet their needs. In 2009, two masters level teachers, one in classical guitar and one in dance, joined the faculty. In 2010, two full-time assistant directors were added to support orchestra and vocal music. Theatre students may choose to major in performance or the "behind the scenes" technical world of lighting design, set-design, and robotics, adding depth to the theatre arts curriculum. Theatre students may also choose to major in musical theatre. And the Fall of 2011, MFAA opened a new bond-funded fine arts complex which houses art classrooms and outdoor courtyards, gallery space, and a 500 seat theatre.
Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Julliard, Eastman School of Music, Oberlin, Princeton, Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute of NY, Rhode Island School of Design, Tulane, Art Institute of Chicago, New York University, Swarthmore, University of Colorado, Penn State, UCLA, Savannah College of Arts and Design, Washington University, University of Southern California, Berklee School of Music and Emerson College in Boston, Bishops University in Canada, The Conservatory of Art in Florence, Italy, University of Texas, Rice University and other fine schools across Texas.