SCPA celebrates 40 years, a bright future by saying goodbye to its longtime home

CINCINNATI, Ohio – You can’t truly appreciate where you’re going if you don’t respect where you’ve been.

That’s what alumni, teachers and many of those who’ve walked the halls at the former School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) building in Pendleton did Friday as they said goodbye to their longtime home and hello to a bright future.

In celebration of the school's 40th anniversary, the alumni association gathered at 1310 Sycamore St. in remembrance of the countless class periods, dance recitals and concerts they had there.

“This school was different because we were a family,” said Terrence Gaither, class of 1976. “And it was all about each of us encouraging each other to be the best we could be in the arts."

The building was marked as a historical site after the school moved in 2011 to its new state-of-the-art facility on Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine.

The alumni association is collaborating with the company Core Redevelopment, the new owners of the Old Woodward School building, as a way to maintain some of its rich history.

"We are donating pieces from (SCPA's) archives to be used in the interior design of the building,” said Robbie Todd, president of the alumni association. “What a great way to honor our past as the building moves into its new life."

RELATED: Dozens show up for auction-of-former SCPA building

SCPA was founded in 1973 as one of the first magnet schools in Cincinnati and became the first school in the country to combine a full range of arts studies with a complete college-preparatory academic program for elementary through high school students.

It moved to Sycamore Street in 1976 after spending time in a series of temporary homes.

The nationally ranked magnet school selects students based on their auditions for specific majors. The new building on Central Parkway is home to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Of the approximately 350 arts schools in the United States, SCPA is one of the oldest and has been cited as a model for both racial integration and for arts programs in over 100 cities.

Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker attended SCPA, as did four-time Emmy nominee soap opera star Rebecca Budig, Emmy-nominated "Chicago Hope" and "NCIS" star Rocky Carroll, film and TV actor Jeff Sams, and "Baywatch" actress Carmen Electra.

Nick Lachey, Drew Lachey, and Justin Jeffre of the multi-platinum album group 98 Degrees graduated from SCPA, as did Canadian Jazz Vocalist of the Year nominee George Evans and Broadway star Ron Bohmer.

On Friday, some of the (less famous) alums, former teachers and staff gathered for a morning-long event featuring a variety of activities meant to honor the school, the legacy and those who’ve made it so memorable.

“We just wanted to remind ourselves of the great work that happened right here at 1310 Sycamore Street,” said Ellen Boeing, class of 1980. "Every day I got up and just wanted to dance. Put on my dance clothes, go to school, and dance."

That tradition of song and distance for which the school is known continued Friday with a cross-generational rendition of “Fame,” a tune from a musical about another performing arts school.

The group also gathered for a photograph reminiscent of the iconic "Great Day in Harlem" jazz picture as a way to pay tribute to the history of the property, which once was the home of abolitionists Levi and Catherine Coffin who played pivotal roles in the Underground Railroad.

Those participating Friday wore traditional SCPA colors, including white tops and black bottoms, which school officials say also celebrated the school's history of cultural diversity.

They then followed up with a mixer at Mr. Pitiful’s on Main Street as a way to catch up and think about the future of SCPA.

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