Arts Pathway program helps students cultivate a passion and appreciation for fine and performing arts

HHS students discuss artwork by Raqib Shaw with a docent on a small group guided tour at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Musuem.

March 11, 2024 By Carol Britton Meyer

After stepping into the role of Hingham Public Schools fine arts director in June 2022, Joann Bellis had many opportunities to speak with Hingham families about their experiences in the arts and their hopes and dreams for the program.

“During these conversations, I heard a desire to celebrate our arts more visibly, support art students with arts-specific college and career goals, recognize significant dedication to arts coursework, and help students connect with peers through the arts,” Bellis told the Hingham Anchor.

Last year, Supt. of Schools Margaret Adams and Hingham High School Principal Rick Swanson connected her with information about the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education’s  Innovation Career Pathways — designed to give students coursework and experience in a specific high-demand industry — and the HHS Global Citizenship Program.

This led to a discussion about how to use these existing program models as a structure to support many of the desires expressed by Hingham families in the earlier conversations with Bellis.

As a result, during the 2023-2024 school year, an innovative pilot version of the HPS Arts Pathway program was implemented with great success, leading to its incorporation into the HHS program of studies for the 2024-2025 school year.

Mr. Cincotta discusses contemporary artwork by Raqib Shaw with HHS students at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Community-based approach
The program applies a community-based approach to help HHS students cultivate a passion and appreciation for the fine and performing arts through professional and school arts events, community-building, mentorship, coursework, and career-oriented opportunities.

The Hingham Arts Alliance partnered with HPS to support this program and ensure its success in its inaugural year. “Not only did the Hingham Arts Alliance fund the stipends for our teacher advisors, but they also organized a highly successful College and Career Alumni Panel that attracted 40-50 attendees,” Bellis said.

The program involves rigorous coursework in the arts, community arts participation, school and professional arts exposure, monthly meetings, and regular mentorship with a faculty advisor, culminating in a thesis project.

To date, at least 55 students have connected with the program either through the club version — which is open to all, or the more rigorous certificate version of the program — which requires acceptance through an application process.

The Arts Alliance also funded ticket costs for students to attend a combined art/music field trip to an open rehearsal with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to expose students to professional role models in the arts while encouraging them to connect across disciplines “and to create a sense of belonging within our arts community,” Bellis explained.

Through the Arts Pathway program, arts students also benefit from opportunities to strengthen their leadership skills.

Students learn about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum courtyard with a docent on a small group guided tour.

Student e-board works with teacher advisors
A HHS five-student leadership e-board works closely with teacher advisors to plan meetings and activities and has also invited Arts Pathway student participants to assist them in designing student-developed and student-led workshops for the community.

“With this program, we have an incredible opportunity to not only inform our peers of what goes on inside arts classrooms, but also to demonstrate the importance of supporting our artistic students,” Arts Pathway Student Co-President Stella Huleatt told the Hingham Anchor. “At a school like Hingham High, it is easy for activities and events without prescribed ‘student sections’ or themed rallies to get overlooked. Since beginning Arts Pathways, I have seen an exciting improvement in peer attendance and interest in arts events that I’m hopeful will continue to grow!”

Visual art students are currently planning a printmaking workshop, while drama students are planning a Tech/Backstage workshop addressing lighting, sound, makeup, and many other important behind-the-scenes roles.

Meanwhile, HHS music students are designing a workshop that will provide a day of private lessons to Hingham Middle School students. “The goal of the private lessons is not only to expose younger students to the process of what a private lesson looks and feels like, but also to build relationships across grade levels,” Bellis explained.

In May, students seeking to complete the certificate version of the program will present a thesis project that demonstrates significant work toward an interest-based arts project.

“Students who want to attend an arts college may consider this as an opportunity to develop a practice portfolio or recital before applying to college,” Bellis said.

Students listened to a discussion with female Finnish composer Outi Tarkaianen about her piece Midnight Sun Variations and then watched the BSO rehearse her piece.

Meeting personal and professional goals
Students may also use this project to explore a topic of interest in-depth, with teacher advisors working with them toward meeting personal and professional goals based on their individual needs.

“We’re excited by the potential that we see for this program to grow and strengthen as we learn from this year’s successes and challenges,” Bellis said.

Arts Pathway Teacher Advisor Quote Brian Cincotta also shared his thoughts about the program with the Hingham Anchor.
“One of the greatest things about serving as an advisor for Arts Pathway has been getting to know so many artistically-minded students who I wouldn’t otherwise have met as members of my band program,” he said. “It has completely reshaped the way I view the segment of the school population who cares deeply about the arts. Art, drama and music students have often perceived themselves as being marginalized due to their interests in an environment that so obviously values athletic and academic achievement, but the Arts Pathway Club and Certificate Program have helped them recognize the intrinsic value in their pursuits, strengthen their growing community, and forge bonds between artistic disciplines that are yielding exciting and promising results.”

To read the manual and learn more about the program, visit the Arts Pathway website designed by Arts Pathway student leaders ( or contact Bellis at

For more information about the Arts Pathway program and the College and Career Alumni Panel, go to

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