At Annapolis High School, student dancers and actors rehearse in an airy, two-story studio.
Visual arts students fire their ceramic creations in a trio of kilns. Graphics students work in a lab filled with new computers with wide, flat-screen monitors. Film and production students fine-tune their creations on a mixing board worthy of a professional recording studio.
For a few months now, students at Annapolis High — both those in a performing and visual arts magnet program and other students — have been exploring their creative talents in the school's new two-story addition. The wing was formally dedicated this week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a showcase of students' creative works.
"It raises the bar for all of our students. … The kids just love it," said Principal Sue Chittim.
School officials say the $5 million addition became reality largely through the work of House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, father of a sophomore and a graduate and an alumnus of the school himself.
When state lawmakers raised the sales tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent in 2011, they earmarked a chunk of the money to school construction. Busch said he wanted to make sure approval of how to spend that money bypassed the normal school construction funding process, so it could get to schools more quickly.
With a streamlined process, the arts wing at Annapolis was built much faster than it would have been otherwise, according to Alex L. Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for the Anne Arundel school system.
Busch said he was pleased to "play a small role" in construction of the arts wing at Annapolis, which was built onto the rear of the school.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Busch said he was inspired to find a way to fund the arts wing after seeing eight portable classrooms at the school and learning that number would grow to 18 when the arts program launched. Busch recalled that he was also told dance classes would be held in a former auto shop.
"This is state of the art, and our kids deserve state of the art," Busch said.
Anne Arundel offers performing and visual arts magnet programs at Brooklyn Park Middle School, Bates Middle School, Broadneck High School and Annapolis High School. At the high school level, Annapolis hosts students in creative writing, dance, film, theater and technical production/arts management, while music students attend Broadneck.
At Tuesday's ceremony, arts students joined dignitaries lined up behind a red ribbon strung between two paintings on easels.
Chittim then gave a somewhat theatrical command to snip the ribbon: "Break a leg!" she shouted.