The Creswell Story

Documentary Tells Story of I.T. Creswell Arts Magnet's Past, Present and Future
Posted on 08/22/2022
Creswell students and staff at premiere


The Tennessee Performing Arts Center and Isaiah T. Creswell Middle Magnet School of the Visual & Performing Arts have partnered to produce a full-length, student-led documentary, The Creswell Story

student on red carpet

The film features students and staff sharing their favorite aspects of Creswell today, alumni looking back on memories from their time at the former Wharton Arts Middle Magnet (now Creswell) and the namesake’s daughter, Dr. Carol Creswell, offering stories of her father’s legacy.

The Creswell Story is more than a student project; it’s a love letter from the students to their school, told using the skills they learned through arts education.

In 1993 Wharton Arts Middle Magnet was founded. In 2006 Wharton changed locations and was renamed for Isaiah T. Creswell, the first African American to serve on the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education. He was appointed to the position by then-Mayor Beverly Briley in 1966. After serving on the MNPS school board for 12 years, Creswell became the board's first African American chairman in 1978.

“The legacy that my father left has always made me very proud of him,” Dr. Creswell said, adding that her father would be pleased to have a public school named after him.

The late Creswell spent his life fighting for equality for all, especially students. Today, Creswell Magnet School’s art courses cover skills such as dance, drama, visual arts, music, musical theater, speech, art appreciation, creative writing, playwriting, chorus, paintworks, photography, piano and band.

The students who were interviewed for the film spoke about their love for the combination of arts and core subjects that their school offers. The project also allowed students to see their work on the big screen, intertwining past, present and future.

audience at premiere

“The students were constantly impressing us. They were telling a story they believed in and cared about,” said Caroline Barnard, the Creswell theater teacher and a driving force behind the film. 

Along with Barnard, students worked with theater director, actor and teaching artist Jon Royal to make their visions come to life.

“These students had a lot of ideas and opinions, but it all came together as a wonderful representation of the community,” Royal said.

The film class and crew met every Wednesday for a year, storyboarding, brainstorming, filming and interviewing – making up 27 hours of film work in total. The students were supported by Enterprise Solutions, Earl Swensson Associates and TPAC.

“It is so important to us to have an arts magnet in our city,” said TPAC’s Senior Director of Special Projects for Education, Lattie Brown. “TPAC is so proud of what these students accomplished.

Creswell thanks the faculty, staff, students, alumni, families and the community for their contributions to The Creswell Story documentary.

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Interested in attending Creswell? Seats are still available.


Image credits: Anna Roberson Design

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