During a special screening of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s upcoming film, In the Heights, on May 15, former First Lady Michelle Obama announced a special partnership between CalArts and The Posse Foundation—a leading college success and youth leadership development nonprofit.
“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,” Obama said in a video message to attendees of the post-screening panel discussion, led by Miranda, that centered on first-generation college students. “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.”
The new initiative will connect high school students focused on arts and culture to top arts-oriented colleges and universities. The selected Posse members will receive full-tuition scholarships, along with a full complement of support and mentorship to help them follow their passion.
CalArts is piloting the endeavor and will select its first cohort of Arts Posse Scholars this fall. They’ll begin their CalArts journey together in fall 2022.
“I wish I’d had an Arts Posse when I was looking at colleges,” said 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.”
Recipients of the prestigious award will be selected for exceptional leadership potential as well as artistic ability. Other parts of the Posse support system include eight months of pre-college training leading up to matriculation and faculty mentoring once enrolled.
“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.”
Most Posse Scholars are first-generation college-goers from under-resourced Black and Brown communities. To be considered for the award, students must first be nominated by their high school or a community-based organization. Nominees then take part in Posse’s Dynamic Assessment Process, a nontraditional and innovative method for assessing leadership and academic potential.
“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.”
Over the next five years, Posse plans to expand the program to include five top-tier arts colleges. At capacity, the program will support 250 Arts Posse Scholars annually, providing more than $10 million in full-tuition scholarships each year.