Art & Design alum leads arts high school in New York City

Since 2012, art & design alumna Alicia Wargo has been the principal of DreamYard Preparatory High School in the Bronx, New York City, a job she says she was prepared for, in part, by her MFA studies at Mason Gross:

"Going to art school honed my collaboration skills and provided me with endless opportunities to solve problems creatively. Most importantly, being an artist prepared me to accept criticism and become self-reflective. Anyone who ever has gone to art school knows how brutal critiques can be. You put your work on display and you just get ripped to shreds. Through the process, I learned how to filter out comments that were valuable to me about my work from the comments that weren’t relevant to my vision as an artist. This skill has been instrumental as a principal, especially as a leader who has been required to engage her community in school turnaround work."

Under Wargo's leaderhip, the school has increased its graduation rate by almost 50%. Students at DreamYard Prep take at least one arts class each semester, including dance, music, theater, visual arts, digital photography, fashion design, poetry, and technology. Although the school has an arts focus, the mission is not to churn out professional artists.

"While some students go on to pursue professions in the arts, most students choose other fields of study after they graduate," says Wargo. "However, I believe that immersing oneself deeply in an arts discipline will provide students with experiences and skills that will prepare them for any career...[including] collaboration, ability to think outside the box, public speaking, commitment, and problem-solving."

"In education, we often forget to give young people opportunities to express joy," Wargo says. "There is a joy that comes from expressing oneself in and through the arts that I know is vital to being human, especially to adolescents still trying to find who they are and how they can be in the world."

Read more about Wargo's journey from graduate student to visual ars teacher to principal in Rutgers Magazine.

Photo by Gregg Vigliotti/Rutgers Magazine

Information accurate as of June 2018.