The Arts

Arts in Upper School


The fine and performing arts programs in Highland's Upper School are dynamic, vibrant, and brought to life by our students and faculty. Overseen by artistic director Michael Hughes, the arts teach our students that they have capabilities that they didn't know they had.
"At Highland, we are committed to educating the whole student – and the student is not complete without the arts," says Highland's Artistic Director Michael Hughes. "As a school, we would not be fulfilling our mission if we didn't have a robust arts program that serves the needs of the entire student."
"Participating in the arts gives our students confidence–an inner strength–that very often they didn't know they had," Mr. Hughes continued. "College admissions offices are looking for students who are well-rounded. Students may not understand the long-term value of their involvement in the arts while they're doing it, but I hope they understand it when those college acceptance letters start coming in."

Fine arts programs led by artists

Highland's drawing and painting-based 2D art programs focus on developing classical skills. The 2D art classroom in the Michael A. Hughes Center for the Arts is designed to offer students plenty of natural light, large work areas with professional drawing tables, and views of the nearby mountains to provide daily inspiration for their work. Students can see the seasons change and study light, color, and perspective without having to leave their work tables.
To serve the needs of a wide range of art students, Highland offers beginning, intermediate and Advanced Placement (AP) classes in general art, drawing and painting, and design. Additionally, graphics and computer animation are offered in a fully-equipped computer lab. In each class, field trips to museums and local artist's studios, and direct access to teachers' own ongoing projects offer an opportunity to broaden the students understanding and appreciation for their subjects and craft.
With a dedicated gallery space adjacent to The Rice Theater in the Michael A. Hughes Center for the Arts, students across all grades exhibit student work that is curated by faculty two times per year. Additionally, Upper School students have specific opportunities throughout the academic year to feature artwork in the gallery. 

Highland's emphasis on ceramics is unique

Ceramist Christian Ives is the latest addition to Highand's 3D art program. Under Mr. Ives' direction, Highland School devotes significant resources to developing a strong ceramics program that gives students a unique opportunity to work with their hands during the school day.
"Our Upper School students crave the chance to make things with their hands," said Mr. Ives. "They yearn for a sense of belonging and ownership of something tangible and real. Ceramics offers this in a way that is different from other artistic endeavors. Hard work, discipline, and passion–and ceramics requires all these things from our students–gives students a sense of self-worth. I see it in the studio every day." 

A strong and growing performing arts program

Each year, Highland students present a play in the Fall and a musical in the Spring. These productions typically feature classics (recent productions include Camelot, Chess: The Musical, And Then There Were None, and Oliver) and create a wide range of opportunities for students who want to be involved in the performing arts – both on stage and behind the scenes. 
"Kids gravitate to the Center for the Arts. They feel safe here," said Mr. Hughes. Our plays are an important part of the cultural and social fabric of the school and everyone from fellow students to our faculty and staff to our families are very supportive."
"Thanks to this supportive environment, students are willing to try and teachers encourage them to go beyond their comfort zones," Mr. Hughes continued. We take pride in creating an environment with no barriers–either artificial or real. The self-exploration that comes with being on stage helps them find an inner fire and intrinsic motivation. Once they find that fire, our department helps fan the flames." 
"Some of our best actors are our best students and also great athletes. They enjoy the challenges, become very good at managing their responsibilities, and seek out opportunities to be involved throughout their time at the school."
Highland also offers roles for students who don’t like to be on stage. Students who love theater can be involved backstage as a stage manager. There are niches to be found for all types of the arts. Guitar, jazz, and choral programs are available for Upper School students

The Michael A. Hughes Center for the Arts

The Michael A. Hughes Center for the Arts is a state-of-the-art 24,000 square foot facility dedicated to Highland's fine and performing arts programs. Learn more about its performance, rehearsal, educational, and exhibit spaces by clicking on any of the expanding boxes below: 

List of 2 items.

  • The Rice Theater

    Professional facility available to all students
    The Rice Theater is a professional level facility with lighting and sound equipment found only in the finest theaters. With 355-seats, this state-of-the-art theater offers a flexible 24' x 26' performing space that offers large wing spaces and backstage areas for actors, sets, and instruments to be housed during plays and concert performances.

    Behind the performance area is a fully-equipped stage shop that features an opening directly onto the stage so sets and equipment can be moved from the shop to the main stage.
    The Rice Theater is also home to assemblies, performances, and plays throughout the academic year.
  • The Lise Hicklin Black Box Theater

    Black Box is an intimate performance and rehearsal space
    The Lise Hicklin Black Box theater enables students to rehearse and perform plays that demand more than the traditional stage setting offered in The Rice Theater. In this intimate space, musicians, singers, actors, and audiences are able to experience innovative staging techniques. Additionally, lighting and sound equipment reflect more of what students are likely to experience as they work in theaters in community settings, as opposed to the highly sophisticated systems found in The Rice Theater. 

    The Black Box Theater is home to our popular series of Coffeehouse performances. Held one Friday each month, students can get on stage and perform in front of their fellow students in a supportive and fun setting.


Highland School is a co-ed independent Pre-K2 to Grade 12 day school located in Warrenton, Virginia.