Gotham Professional Arts Academy
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Small class sizes; rich arts; social justice focus
No dedicated gymnasium; attendance has a ways to go
Gotham Professional Arts Academy offers art, theater and a social justice focus in a nontraditional setting. The school is small, as are class sizes. It is open citywide. No arts portfolio is required for admission.
Gotham is part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of schools exempt from administering all but the English Regents exam. Eleventh- and 12th-graders must complete research projects called PBATs (performance based assessment tasks), in English, math, history, art and science on topics of their choosing. PBAT’s are meaty, academic projects based on research in scholarly articles. Past project titles include “The Effects of Aromatherapy on Earthworm Body Growth” and “A Novel Protocol in Flower Presentation.”
Most classes are structured around themes. Some have unconventional names, such as an English class called “Death and Dystopia,” and a history class called “Black Sails and Pirates.” Lessons do not take place only within the school building. In a course called “Hidden NYC,” exploring difficult aspects of our city’s past, teens visited the hangman tree in Washington Square Park.
The school has an ambitious social justice focus. A chemistry and physics teacher took 30 students to Flint, Michigan, for example, as the culmination of a unit on lead contamination. Rather than relying only on textbooks, lessons draw from current events. In 2018, students followed the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which comemorates thousands of African Americans killed in racist lynchings, and tied this into an exploration about who is honored and who is not in New York City’s monuments.
Delivering on its theme, Gotham offers students instruction in drama, visual arts, and art criticism. Freshmen take six-week rotations in each area before choosing one to focus on through graduation. The art criticism concentration gives students an idea of the business side of art and culminates with students working as “art educators” at the Whitney Museum. The school offers American Sign Language as its second language.
Principal since 2018, Robert Michelin earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and African-American studies at Williams College, and has three master’s degrees: two in education and one in Ethnomusicology from the University of London. He taught previously at Humanities Prep, and Institute for Collaborative Education.
Michelin wants students to “understand the impact of art more than the production of art,” he said. Students visit Mass MoCA, in an old factory, to explore unusual art spaces, and work with local artists and galleries in Brooklyn. They curate a “pop up” art show in hallway and classroom spaces. Gotham has its own music studio, and a rare ethno-musicology library collection.
The school faces some challenges. Its attendance rate is low, but the younger grades have the best attendance, Michelin said, and he hopes to continue to instill strong habits from the youngest up. Most incoming students attend a summer bridge program, which focuses on school routines and foundational skills in math and English.
Many graduates attend four-year CUNY Colleges. A couple recent graduates were admitted to NYU and Hofstra on full scholarships. Other college acceptances include SUNY Albany, SUNY New Paltz, Hunter College and Baruch College.
Gotham shares a building with ACORN Community High School. Although close to bus lines, it is about a ten-minute walk from the nearest subway. The building features science labs, a dance studio, a media lab, a library and a black box theater, but no dedicated gymnasium. Students may walk to nearby Paul Robeson High School to take part in a sports team, or join a Road Runner’s club based at Gotham.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT (integrated collaborative teaching) and self-contained classes.
ADMISSIONS: Open to students citywide. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interviews, November 2019).
Is this school safe and well-run?
From 2018-19 NYC School Survey
From 2017-18 NY State Report Card
From this school's most recent Quality Review Report
How do students perform academically?
Who does this school serve?
From 2018-19 Demographic Snapshot
Programs & Admissions
From the 2019 High School Directory
All students complete five Performance-Based Assessment Tasks (PBATs) in English, Math, Social Studies, Science and Art. The PBATs are designed to prepare students for college and careers by focusing on writing, critical thinking, oral presentation, and original research. For their art PBAT, students select their own area of Art focus: Visual Art, Art Criticism, or Theater/Acting. No art portfolio is required for admission to Gotham Academy, but an Art PBAT is required for graduation.
American Sign Language, Spanish
Contact & Location
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Brooklyn, NY 11238