The Ville’s Sumner High School was the first high school west of the Mississippi to educate Black students, nurturing artists like Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Grace Bumbry, and more. Sumner was recommended for closure in fall 2020 – a recommendation that would further decades-long disinvestment in one of the nation’s most historically significant Black communities.
4theVille and the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, in collaboration with St. Louis Public Schools, developed a multi-year, in-school arts residency at Sumner. Over a dozen of St. Louis’s leading arts and cultural institutions would provide professional Teaching Artists, offering students daily rigorous arts training. The Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the program in March 2021: the program debuted in August 2021, and Year 2 began this August.
Students now select from six arts & activism tracks:
- Visual Art
- Living Art: History, Museums, & Tourism
Board of Education Vote
The St. Louis Board of Education unanimously voted on March 9, 2021 to keep historic Sumner High School in The Ville open in direct response to the Recovery Plan prepared by 4thVilleSTL, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, Sumner Renaissance, Sumner PRFC and Market Analytics LLC in partnership with Superintendent Adams. Full press release.
To assure community grounding, the partners worked with a community-based organization to hire program directors tasked with integrating the elective studios into the school and curriculum. The program director(s) report to their respective organization(s) and SLPS. Additionally, they are supported by an Advisory Board made up of representatives from The Ville community, Sumner alumni, partner organizations and local leaders.
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In the News:
December 8, 2021 – “Small but spirited, Sumner High choir finds hard-fought harmony” via St. Louis Public Radio
November 4, 2021 – “Arts are so important: Hollywood casting director visits Sumner High School” via KSDK
August 27, 2021 – “Historic Sumner High School Has Its First Choir In Decades” via St. Louis Public Radio
March 9, 2021 – “Closing Sumner High School Is ‘Erasing American History,’ Supporters Say” via St. Louis Public Radio
February 26, 2021 – ‘You cannot wipe the history out’ | The effort to revive a historic Black neighborhood in St. Louis” via KSDK
December 14, 2020 – “Arts and culture leaders pen letter in support of sparing Sumner High School from closure” via STL Magazine