Performing Institute of Minnesota
The acronym PiM is an open door for curiosity. It’s pronounced “Pim.” The “Performing Institute of Minnesota Arts High School” sounds a bit old-fashioned and doesn’t quite fit. The modern arts-focused charter school is authorized by the University of St. Thomas and is located on Flying Cloud Drive right here in Eden Prairie, found within the former walls of Eagle Ridge Academy.
Many Eden Prairie residents remember when the school formerly known as the Main Street School of Performing Arts acquired the property to relocate to Eden Prairie from Hopkins in 2016. The $6 million undertaking moved from purchase to project quickly: PiM opened its doors for the 2017-2018 school year. The move was the cherry on top. In fact, you might have been there – a party of Main Street School alumni, staff, and volunteers made it a community effort. That’s the norm for PiM. In spite of its high bar for traditional academic success in tandem with its impressive roster of field-professional graduates, PiM maintains a tight community and familial environment.
We talked to Rachel Brady, PiM Outreach Coordinator and teacher in the PiM theater department. “Our mission is artistic excellence and academic rigor for every learner.” With top-of-the-line equipment and an average of half of each student’s day spent on art, the 9th through 12th graders are supplied with the tools to meet every facet of educational and artistic success. Each student chooses a major: Visual Arts, Media Arts, Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, Theater, Dance, or Musical Theater. From dance studios to screen printing facilities, PiM can facilitate growth for just about anyone.
“PiM wanted to create a space that could be a community hub,” Brady told us. By day, PiM is the Arts High School. But after the last school bell rings, PiM’s local professional artistic partners – working actors and crew (like Tyler Michaels’ Trademark Theatre Company members), professional dancers (like members of Black Label Movement, the dance company founded by Carl Flink), along with voice and instrumental lessons, and student performances open to the public – fill the school. “We wanted to lay roots around the area to be an arts hub for this community.” The ability to interact, study, and perform with professionals underlines the seriousness that PiM has for its students’ artistic futures.
That’s one reason for the new facilities. The other? They wanted more room while keeping class sizes small. “We still have space and we want more students,” Brady said. A student who would thrive at PiM is interested in his or her chosen artistic pursuit in a passionate, dedicated capacity and has dreams to pursue it professionally. They can sometimes feel under-stimulated at traditional schools. They would benefit from academic and creative challenges, and they desire a creative community.
As a charter school, PiM is tuition-free and holds the same standards that a family would find at any other Minnesota public school. New student artists participate in an arts workshop to gauge different strengths and abilities, enabling PiM to tailor their arts education in a personalized way.
According to pimartshs.org: “Our arts curriculum focuses on Theory and Creation. Courses of study are designed to specifically enhance students’ ability to create their own work, placing an emphasis on the history and application of core elements of each discipline.”
A “jury” is hosted to showcase learners’ talents and provide feedback. PiM also hosts a monthly showcase called “No Shame” – a student-comprised variety show for all majors’ participation. Even with meticulous programming, the student body is supportive. “Our students are really rooted in community,” Brady said, “It feels like family.” The students and teachers get to know each other well, and the small class sizes and variety of majors encourage mentoring.
Last school year, PiM’s graduation rate exceeded the national average by 2.2% and exceeded the Minnesota average by 3.5%. PiM partners with the University of Minnesota to adopt their “Ramp-Up to Readiness” program, a preparatory program designed to prepare learners for whatever education step beyond high school they choose to take.
In average environments, gifted kids can feel different. “This is a safe place to land,” Brady said about PiM, given the school’s goal to help new students thrive, feel like they belong, and be ready to succeed. “Students are given this playground of really fancy, really nice space.” Their Emerging Professionals Program speaks for itself: “Every year we have students who work professionally.” PiM’s goal is to adapt to support them.
PiM continues to celebrate successes and fine-tune their custom approach from within. The school is eager to welcome new students – incoming freshmen and first-time upperclassmen alike – for the next school year. Rachel Brady sums up her feelings about her school: “My goal is always to be at a school like PiM.”