Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts

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Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts
Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts is located in Florida
Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts
Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts
Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts is located in the United States
Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts
Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts
750 Hollingsworth Road

CoordinatesCoordinates: 28°02′09″N 81°56′27″W / 28.035812°N 81.940726°W / 28.035812; -81.940726
TypeMagnet high school
Motto"Harrison School for the Arts fosters creativity for a lifetime"
PrincipalDaryl Ward Ph.d

The Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts (also called Harrison School for the Arts) is a high school in Lakeland, Florida, United States. The school was founded in 1989 and named after community member and art patron Lois Cowles Harrison. It is a magnet school that draws its student population from communities throughout Polk County. Students may specialize in dance, classical guitar, orchestra, piano, choir, jazz, theatre, technical theatre, musical theatre, film, visual arts, or creative writing. Students take general education classes at Lakeland High School, located adjacent to Harrison School for the Arts. The school received an expansion in 2008, with renovations and the addition of 95,000 square feet to the building.


Harrison School for the Arts opened in 1989, after much debate about whether to open Polk County's first arts school. The school started off with only 154 students, and 5 departments: Chorus, Orchestra, Dance, Musical Theater,and Art. Students in Chorus and Orchestra had to be bused everyday to nearby Florida Southern College to receive their classes. Through years of expansion, the current departments were added, now resulting in 12 total departments. Before the major renovations of 2008, Harrison shared with Lakeland High School the only chorus room and orchestra room available. The only building Harrison could call its own was the current 649 seat theater. After 2008, Harrison was able to expand into two multi-million dollar buildings. The new Harrison Arts Center is now home to a brand new 130-seat movie theater, a blackbox theater, recording studios, three art labs, three dance studios, a Musical Theatre/Vocal room, chorus room, orchestra room, jazz band room and other technologically advanced classrooms. Lakeland's fine arts sector now has their own building as well. Tom McDonald was the founding principal.

Departments and education[edit]

Harrison is the house for students to take their Arts classes, while general education classes are taken at Lakeland High School. The school day is divided into 7 periods. Underclassmen take five general education periods in Lakeland High School, while their two arts classes are taken in Harrison. Upperclassmen resort to four general education classes, and three arts classes in Harrison. There are 12 departments in Harrison: Dance, Motion Picture Arts, Choral, Guitar, Piano, Jazz Band, Orchestra, Musical Theater, Theater, Theater Tech, Visual Arts, and Creative Writing. Students take their department class plus one more (two if upperclassmen) other class that will enhance their knowledge in the area. All departments require an audition to be accepted. While students that attend Harrison, are dignified as "Harrison" students, they can also take part of extra-curricular activities offered in Lakeland High School such as: Sports, Clubs, Leadership, FCA, and others.


One of the original departments that surged up with the school's opening, is dedicated to students' learning in Contemporary Dance and Ballet. Areas such as Jazz Dance, Hip Hop and Modern Dance are also explored. Students also take classes in dance history, functional anatomy, and improvisation. The department hosts two concerts and two senior choreographed concerts.

Motion Picture Arts

One of the two new departments that came in with the 2008 expansions, MPA dedicates itself into enhancing students' knowledge in film writing, film screening, directing, and editing. Screenwriting in three levels, Digital Editing in four levels, and Cinematography are the classes taken by students who are accepted in MPA.


Opening with the school itself, Chorus is as well one of the oldest departments in Harrison, starting off with 21 kids. Chorus is dedicated into improving vocal technique, chorus music, music history, theory, and music appreciation. Students can also take an AP Theory course, or a World Choir class which enhances in music from different regions of the world. There are currently three choirs: Women's for girls in grades 9-12, Men's for boys in grades 9-12, Chamber for boys in grades 9-12 and any girl that wants to audition, and Harrison Singers, an all-combined choir. The 2014-2016 years has the largest number of men in their choir since the start.


The other new department that opened with the 2008 expansion, Guitar is dedicated to helping the basic and advanced knowledge in Guitar playing, improvisation, theory, and technique. Students in Guitar are also eligible for the AP theory course, which involves a rigorous curriculum in theory, sight reading, and composition.


An original department, Piano enhances knowledge in basic and advanced skills in piano playing as well as music history, theory, classical and modern piano music, and improvisation. Piano hosts two concerts per year, exploring in all types of repertoire including classical, jazz, and blues music.

Jazz Band

A recent incorporated department, Jazz Band explores jazz history, different types of jazz, theory, and instrument technique. Jazz Band also participates in various concerts hosted by other departments.


Along with Chorus, one of the oldest and most successful departments in Harrison. Orchestra strives for its students to master the skill of symphonic sound through instrument tech, music appreciation, and theory. Harrison's Symphonic Orchestra is well known around the nation and the world, going to Chicago every three years to play in its art festival and going to international festivals around Europe.

Musical Theater

Musical theater focuses in the development of acting, singing, and dancing. Students take classes in Tap, Ballet, Hip Hop, Swing, and Fusion for Dance and practice different techniques for Vocal. Acting is categorized by theater history and acting technique.


Harrison's theater department is another original, going back to the day of Harrison's inception. The theater department is categorized by theater performance, with emphasis on acting technique, improvisation, creative writing, and directing. Students also engage in dramatic theory, theater history, and stagecraft.

Theater Tech

Theater Tech is in charge of every aspect of the show without performing in it. Students take control of the theater sound system for concerts, lights, stage props, stagecraft, and other aspects that are needed to run the show. Students also take part of a semester in acting. Students in theater tech are fully in charge on how shows will go.

Visual Arts

Harrison's renowned Visual Arts department is categorized by all forms of art: Painting, Sculpting, Photography, and Drawing. Students also take part of 2-D and 3-D animations using the 3-D art lab in Harrison. Harrison as well has their own gallery of all projects done so forth by the Visual Arts department and examples are also shown in the nearby Polk Museum of Art. Students are constantly recognized around the nation for their creations and many can be seen in places such as the Smithsonian in Washington D.C, Museum of Miami, and others.

Creative Writing

Creative Writing is a relatively new department, added in 2014, but is certainly a very diverse study which includes Fiction, Non-Fiction, Scripting, Screenwriting and Poetry. Principal Ward himself was a Creative Writing student at his alma mater, Florida State University, and thought that a Creative Writing Department was needed.

Notable alumni[edit]

External links[edit]