NOCCA formalized and broadened the arts education that for generations had taken place on New Orleans’ streets and in homes. The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts started in 1973 as a half-day program for Orleans Parish high school students who wanted to study instrumental music, drama and visual arts. Students went to regular school in the morning and took art or music classes in the afternoon. In 1974, classes began being held at the former LaSalle Elementary School at Perrier and Webster streets where the school remained until 2000. That same year the school hired Ellis Marsalis as its first jazz instructor.
The school became a national model for arts education. In 2000, the school moved to a new 5-acre campus with stages, practice rooms, studios and laboratories in the Marigny.
The school now offers tuition-free full-day, half-day and afterschool programs to about 850 Louisiana residents. Students qualify through auditions in, dance, media arts, music, theatre arts, visual arts, creative writing and culinary arts.
About 95 percent of all NOCCA graduates go on to college or conservatory programs, while 80 percent receive scholarships.
Some of the schools’ notable graduates include Harry Connick Jr., Terence Blanchard Wendell Pierce and Anthony Mackie.