At the Center of the Arts

School for Creative and Performing Arts

Cincinnati, OH


How does an award-winning creative and performing arts school succeed inside a facility not intended for the arts? After a series of relocations, Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts found itself in an existing structure unable to support its curriculum. Facing diminishing enrollment, SCPA was in desperate need of a space that would provide students with a learning environment aligned with its mission. Spurred by a group of local benefactors’ desire to transform a downtown Cincinnati neighborhood into an arts hub, SCPA became a vital component of the plan, serving as a magnet for the arts. To fulfill this initiative, SCPA needed a complex that could inspire the revitalization of the Over-the-Rhine historical district where the Cincinnati arts movement had started.


The new School for Creative and Performing Arts was a collaborative effort between Cincinnati Public Schools, the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission and the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center. As the first publicly and privately funded K-12 arts school in the nation, local art community leaders had the opportunity to work with the public education governing board and provide insight for the school’s direction.

Integrated into the arts community with entrances facing Washington Park and Central Parkway, the first-floor circulation area, dubbed “Avenue of the Arts,” creates a connection to the community and Music Hall where the vision for the school originated. The building itself is a monument to the arts, paying homage to the brick vernacular of Over-the-Rhine, while integrating a patterned, contemporary curve of recycled stainless steel and zinc metal panels to reflect the character and energy of the neighborhood. SCPA is positioned right where it needs to be: at the center of it all.

Its five stories house professional-grade dance and art studios, sound stages, practice rooms, a costume shop, black box theater, 300-seat recital theater, media center, gymnasium, dining facilities and classrooms. With expansive glass offering a panoramic view of the city, the third-floor atrium stimulates creativity and student interaction. Open areas provide space for practicing performance art, studying together and furthering student’s academic development, inspire students to expand learning environments beyond the classroom. Flexible classroom spaces accommodate various teaching and learning styles, while a grand 750-seat theater supports all aspects of theatrical performance. Housing students of all ages, children gain inspiration from their older peers and experience motivation for a continued education in the arts.


  • Architecture
  • Interior Design
  • MEP Engineering


  • Gold Citation and Issue Cover Image, American School & University Educational Interiors Showcase
  • Publisher's Commendation Award, Learning by Design
  • Award of Merit, Midwest's Constructions Best
  • Bronze Winner Best Overall School, Collabetition