Academy celebrates half a century

Posted 4/13/09

“Past, Present and Future” is the theme as Centennial Academy for Fine Arts Education approaches a 50th anniversary. And an April 24 open house …

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Academy celebrates half a century


“Past, Present and Future” is the theme as Centennial Academy for Fine Arts Education approaches a 50th anniversary. And an April 24 open house is planned to welcome anyone with a past or present connection with the Littleton elementary school, according to principal Mary Ellen Dillman, who is completing her first year at Centennial.

The event is planned from 5 to 7:30 p.m. April 24 at the school, 3306 W. Berry Ave. and Dillman is hoping for good weather so visitors can spill outside.

The school was originally designed by architect Earl Morris and built in 1958. It has had several additions since then. It was named for the nearby Centennial Race Track, Centennial Downs, 1950-1983, an important piece of Littleton’s past.

In 2004, with the help of Federal grants which were available due to an enrollment of more than 40 percent economically disadvantaged students, it reinvented itself.

It became Centennial Academy for Fine Arts Education, a move that positions it now with a waiting list for each grade level and due to open enrollment, a number of students from outside its immediate area.

When the grants ran out, the school district decided to support the unique arts program, which fills a need for many children. Readers have no doubt read about the volumes of research on how arts can enhance a child’s ability to learn math, reading, logic, etc., in addition to the pure enjoyment it can afford.

The school day for Centennial students is 20 minutes longer than other district elementary schools and Monday through Thursday, every child attends an art class. Choices include all performing arts: piano (there are 26 keyboards), violin (Suzuki method), singing, theater, dance, band, percussion, brass, dulcimer, improv plus a broad range of visual arts experiences.

“We hire professional artists to teach a core class” in each special area, Dillman says. All children take two classes on Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday schedules.

“We have lots of performances,” Dillman says, and they have outgrown available space, so for the twice -a -year Intermediate Arts Night on May 6, Centennial will use the larger gym at nearby Goddard Middle School. Paintings, drawings, ceramics and other visual arts are displayed at Centennial.

Children will be performing during the April 24 open house, cases and walls will hold visual arts projects, cake and punch will be served and a room will hold bits of school history. Dillman says they are “sifting through documents” and found a copy of the original flyer printed when the school was built, inviting neighbors to an open house. “We are asking people to contribute photographs,” she adds.

Students are contributing thoughts to be included in a time capsule, a project still in progress.


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