Posse Foundation, CalArts Partner for the First Arts Posse Scholars

Collage of CalArts photos

The Posse Foundation and CalArts announced a partnership to create the first cohort of Arts Posse Scholars. | Courtesy: CalArts

The New York-based Posse Foundation, a preeminent organization in youth leadership development, today (April 16) announced a new partnership and pilot program with CalArts to foster a diverse pipeline of leaders in the creative arts.

Developed with the Miranda Family Fund, the new Posse Arts Program will help bring arts- and culture-focused students to CalArts. The Institute will select its first cohort of Arts Posse Scholars this fall — the first Arts Posse — to begin their CalArts journey in fall 2022. 

“I’m proud to announce that Posse is teaming up with Lin-Manuel and the Miranda Family [Fund] to help provide that support system to even more students — and in an inspiring new way,” former First Lady Michelle Obama said in a video message during a panel discussion Thursday centered on first-generation college students and led by Lin-Manuel Miranda. “It’s called the Arts Posse initiative, and it means that starting next year at CalArts, talented dancers and graphic artists and actors, musicians and more will head off on their college journeys together, supporting each other every step of the way.”

Started in 1989, the Posse Foundation collaborates with 63 highly selective colleges and recruits dynamic students from more than 20 U.S. cities. The foundation identifies seniors in high school and works with them through an eight-month pre-collegiate training program, supporting them through college and helping them secure competitive internships and leadership-track jobs.

Posse Scholars represent the diversity of the cities where they are recruited, and most are first-generation college students from under-resourced Black and Brown communities. The new Arts Posse Scholars in particular will be selected jointly with the foundation on their artistic ability as well as exceptional leadership potential.

They will attend as members of a team (hence the name “posse”). 

“What excites me most about this initiative is the focus on leadership combined with the arts,” said CalArts President Ravi Rajan. “Our partnership with Posse and the Miranda family builds on our commitment to finding and nurturing diverse artistic voices not often seen in the creative arts, by equipping them to eventually lead these fields.”

To be considered for the Posse, students must be nominated by their high school or by a community-based organization. Nominees undergo Posse’s Dynamic Assessment Process, an innovative, nontraditional method to evaluate their leadership and academic potential. Posse Scholars graduate at a rate of 90% — well above the national average. 

“I wish I’d had an Arts Posse when I was looking at colleges,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Pulitzer Prize-, Grammy-, Emmy- and Tony-winning songwriter, actor, producer and director. “Much of my career has been about challenging and expanding notions of who belongs and who gets to lead.

“For 30-plus years, Posse has been doing the exact-same thing in higher education,” he went on. “It makes so much sense that our Family Fund would look to partner with Posse to realize our shared goal of greater diversity of leadership of the arts.”

As part of its involvement, the Miranda Family Fund will assemble a group of accomplished artists from the fields of art, design, dance, film, theater, music and writing to enrich different aspects of the program. 

“We’re living through a challenging but also extraordinarily hopeful moment in our country’s history,” said Posse’s president and founder, Deborah Bial. “The arts play such a critical role in shaping our culture and society, which is why it’s so important that the decision makers in these fields represent the rich diversity of the country.

“We are so grateful to President Rajan and CalArts for piloting the model and to the Miranda family for their leadership on this vital project.”

Adam Smeltz

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