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Keeping Art Alive at the Metropolitan Arts Institute

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Continuing with my series of interviews with nonprofit organizations, small businesses, restaurants, and arts organizations within the Phoenix community, today I’m speaking with Lisa Starry. Lisa is the Associate Head of the School at Metropolitan Arts Institute.

Lisa started her teaching career after graduating from the California Institute of the Arts with a major in dance and choreography. She taught at several schools before getting the opportunity to interview at the Metropolitan Arts Institute and have her own dance program. Needless to say, she applied, got the job, and built a stellar dance program. Not only that, but she was also able to apply her other business skills such as marketing to the administration. After eight years, she was then asked to move into that administration. It was scary at first, and she didn’t want to let her students go, but the new position offered a whole new world of things to accomplish and learn. She was eventually awarded the title “Associate Head of School,” and with co-director Matthew Baker, can now claim to be one of the original founders of Metro Arts. 

Metro’s charter has always been able to specialize in visual and performing arts, which is rare because most other art schools are exclusively one or the other. They started humbly as a high school (grades nine through 12) with just 63 kids. Since the beginning, though, academics have always come first. If there’s a student that’s not doing well in their primary courses, they get pulled out of their performing or visionary arts classes until their grades get caught up. Lisa admits that kids can struggle with this, but their passion for art always wins out and forces them to work through it. 

Now, Metro boasts 250 students - their full capacity for the building. They’ve been full for several years, in addition to a waiting list towards the end of the year for students who still want to attend. Their enrollment process is first-come, first-serve, and they start applications in September for the following year. Prospective students and their parents are required to go to an open tour before deciding if they want to continue. If so, they fill out their applications, their transcripts go into registration, and if their grades are good enough, they’re in. It can be stressful for parents whose kids end up on the waiting list, but they’re assured that things can change quickly, and Metro can usually get everyone enrolled. If not, there’s always next year!

"Metro offers more time and focus in their classes than regular public schools."

Despite the arts being cut from most public school systems, they have shown to be every bit as important to kids in stimulating their thought process. Metro differs from most public schools in that they utilize a block schedule so that there is more time and focus in the classroom. There are fewer classes in a certain subject per week, but those classes last much longer. Six years ago - prompted by her own son not having a school to go to - Lisa started a middle school program with one 7th grade class and one 8th grade class comprising about 25 kids each. Unlike their older pupils, these middle schoolers are required to take the same academics daily. Students must therefore take their art classes at the end of the day in order to learn to balance their interests with their high school academics with the time comes. 

Metro is located at 1700 N 7th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85007, and you can find them online at, where you can learn all about the school and staff and events that are going on. Lisa herself maintains the site, and she will be posting their tour dates for enrollment for the following year in mid-August, with the first tour happening in September. If you have any questions, you can just use the contact feature and it will get channeled back to her. She can also be reached by phone at 602.258.9500

Thank you very much for spending time with us. If you have any other questions regarding this great organization, or anything pertaining to real estate, you can always call me or send me an email. Have a great day.