By August next year the South Main Arts District will be getting a new tenant, actually about 120 tenants, when a Shelby County performing-arts school relocates to the area. The Visible School, currently in Lakeland, has about 100 students and 27 staff members.
South Main residents and business owners were told of the school's relocation earlier this month by school president Ken Steorts. Steorts was joined in his presentation by South Main businessman and architect -- and school board member -- Barry Yoakum, of Archimania, who is assisting in the relocation.
"We've outgrown our quarters here in Lakeland," said Steorts. "We think we can accomplish two things with this move. First, we can offer more of an impact on the city by helping with events, training young people in urban areas with music lessons, and supplementing what's already being done. Our students will have an opportunity for more practical experiences with proximity to the arts and music community."
The school, in its fourth year, offers programs in audio and video production, the music business, Christian-ministry bands, and "worship leadership" in modern pop music. The curriculum is Christian-based and includes a nine-month Bible course. Core classes, like math and English, are not yet offered. Students must meet SAT requirements and have a high school diploma or GED.
Although the Visible School is not yet accredited (Steorts said the process should be complete by next month), it offers accredited classes through its partner school, Crichton College. Once the school is accredited, it will offer a bachelor's degree in music. Tuition at the Visible School is about $17,000 a year, including housing and books.
"We are a very community-oriented school. We don't want our enrollment to go over 120 students, even after we move," said Steorts. Most of the students live in campus dormitories and hail from outside the Memphis area. The Center City Commission has met with school officials and has recommended about 30 possible sites.
"We had only marketed our school as a unique place at music shows and on the Web. Now we can really do some marketing as a school in the center of music history," said Steorts. •