School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC)
2106 North Hamilton Street
Richmond VA 23230
Mission Statement
To profoundly influence young people’s lives through exceptional performing arts education.
Web and Social Media
Setting the Stage for Life Since 1981
SPARC's In-School Program in one of its final performances
The STAGES program reaches over 1,000 students in and around Richmond each year.
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Ryan T. Ripperton
Board Chair Ronald I Felmus
Board Chair Company Affiliation Laffer Investments
Contact Information
Address 2106 North Hamilton Street
Richmond, VA 23230
Telephone 804 353-3393
Fax 804 359-9045
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 1981
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expense Bar Graph - All Years
Expense Breakdown Bar Chart - All Years
Projected Revenue $2,329,677.00
Projected Expenses $2,329,677.00
Additional Documents
STAGES SOL Assessment2016View
LIVE ART: Blue parent/Teacher Assessment2016View
LIVE ART: Blue Audience Assessment2016View
To profoundly influence young people’s lives through exceptional performing arts education.

2016-2017 saw the continued advancement of SPARC’s mission in the community, with SPARC serving more than 2,500 students in our broad range of training and outreach programs for young people.

Our vision is to inspire the creativity, confidence, and character of every young person in our community. We believe that SPARC’s programs create profound influence on the students we serve and their families, as well as the teachers and volunteers involved in our programs.  

2016-2017 also saw the dedication of the newly renovated SPARC Campus now named the John Thomas Powell building.  Because of the significant growth in SPARC’s enrollment-based classes, as well as the development of new programming for students with disabilities, SPARC was in critical need of additional instructional spaces, including handicap-accessible entrances, restrooms and an elevator. 

In the fall of 2015, SPARC underwent a $1.5M renovation to its campus adding two new teaching studios, a theater lobby, box office and upgrades for handicap accessibility. The renovation has enabled expanded arts education class offerings and enrollment; performance opportunities for SPARC students and the general public to enjoy; and the gathering of arts partners, advocates and supporters for meetings and events. Continuing to develop the SPARC campus enables SPARC to continue to reach its full potential as a leader in arts education.

SPARC’s service to young people is due to the passion and commitment of donors, faculty, parents and grandparents, volunteers, and community leaders.


Goals for Next Year:

  1. SPARC aims to advance our performing arts education outreach programs and curriculum to ensure that all children have access to arts education regardless of their socio-economic background or developmental ability;
  2. Align the LIVE ART and STAGES curriculum allowing SPARC to continue to measure student improvement on the Oral Language Standards of Learning and also use live music and improvised movement to focus the students on acceptance, compassion and empathy with one another in different circumstances.
  3. Continue growth in enrollment and financial aid available, maximizing the number of students in our community who can access the invaluable life lessons SPARC provides, including confidence, creativity, problem solving, and responsibility.
  4. Increase participation and the programmatic value of the New Voices for the Theater program (statewide high school playwriting competition/residency) through expanded resources and support for high school drama and English faculty.
  5. Expand the General Endowment Fund to supplement existing modestly endowed scholarship funds and ensure the mission and program in the future. The General Endowment Fund will be the major force in sustaining programs, outreach, facilities, financial aid and operations – while supporting new performing arts education initiatives as the future unfolds.



SPARC aims to expand our performing arts education outreach programs and curriculum to ensure that all children have access to arts education regardless of their socio-economic background or developmental ability; $1.4 M is needed annually to sustain SPARC's outreach programs.

SPARC has set a goal to raise $2M by 2020 for General Endowment to set the trajectory for its future impact in the community. The General Endowment Fund will be the major force in sustaining programs, outreach, facilities, financial aid and operations – while supporting new performing arts education initiatives as the future unfolds.

Operating Support – 67% of SPARC’s budget ($1.5M) comes from contributions for purposes including outreach programs, productions and financial aid. 



SPARC has been “setting the stage for life” serving youth, schools, families and communities throughout the Richmond, Virginia region since 1981. Our mission is to inspire young people (ages 3-18) to reach their full potential through quality training in the performing arts. The mission is facilitated through professional artists presenting a range of classes, workshops, camps, productions and community outreach programs. Since 1981, SPARC has served an estimated 15,000 youth and their families directly, as well as their schools, neighborhoods and the community at large. Through performing arts education, SPARC develops life skills such as confidence, creativity, problem solving, and presentation skills and gives highly talented and motivated students training that will serve them well at top university performing arts schools.


Founded in 1981 by the late Richmond actress, Jeri Cutler-Voltz, SPARC has grown into one of the more substantial providers of community-based theater arts education for young people in the nation. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, we provide arts education for over 2,500 local young people annually, including students who otherwise would not be able to afford to participate in its programs. We believe that the programs we offer are innovative and of exceptional quality, not just in Richmond but nationwide. Very few metropolitan areas of Richmond’s size have successful, viable, stand-alone performing arts education organizations, and few such organizations have such broad and holistic educational programs. SPARC is an exceptional resource in our community, and our aim is to continue to advance our curriculum to meet or exceed the highest standards nationwide.


CEO Statement

Ryan Ripperton, Executive Director:

SPARC continues to deepen its community impact through the passionate and committed support of its constituents, including its families, students, donors, corporate supporters, friends, and neighbors. SPARC recognizes that performing arts education for our youth is not just about preparing them for the stage, but rather about setting the stage for life. Skills learned and fostered at SPARC have limitless real-world application and include confidence, self-expression, articulation, teamwork, and the value of continual practice/rehearsal. Time and time again, we meet adults who have taken SPARC classes years ago and who now can credit SPARC with helping them succeed in all their endeavors, including those beyond the performing arts.

Our partnership with area schools helps to fill a vital need in our community, providing unparalleled performing arts education to supplement the classroom curriculum, and aids these schools in fulfilling the Virginia Oral Language SOLs.

SPARC’s past, present and future are built upon the support and involvement of our community. Thank you for your support, which helps “set the stage for life” for youth throughout our community.


Board Chair Statement

Rejena Carreras, Immediate Past President, on the growth of SPARC:

SPARC has been recently successful in several areas. We identified and purchased our first permanent home: a "scrappy" building (as our architect described it) on North Hamilton Street that allows us to develop our own 100-seat "black box theatre" and will help us serve as an incubator for the creative talent in the region, both for our primary clientele - actors aged 5 to 18 and in time for the area’s actors, in general. This space allows us to experiment and develop new program offerings with little added expense, in contrast to our prior model of having to assure enough tuition paying students before we could offer a class, to be able to rent space. We will not abandon our distributed model of delivering services even with a "home," since we know that one of our strengths is being able to be in the community areas we serve. Our own "home" space also allows us to develop technical theatre courses in lighting design, sound design, scenery design and construction. And, we have realized substantial economic benefit as we now have storage and construction space in our control and no longer have to waste sets when a show closes or rent space to construct set pieces.

We have entered into an extraordinary era of collaboration in the Richmond Region. SPARC has become both a leader in performing arts education and also has benefitted immensely from the spirit of collaboration in the community. We are actively developing more opportunities to collaborate with organizations and incorporating alternative education methods into our curricula as a result of this collaboration.

SPARC faces several significant challenges in the next several years. We have been renovating our "scrappy" space, but the work is not yet completed.

A key challenge is to continue to grow and to build revenue generating programs in particular. Historically, SPARC derived nearly 70% of its annual revenue from tuition bearing programs. That number has shrunk to around 50%, in large part due to the development of our in-school "Stages" program. This grant-funded program is SOL-focused and is offered within the normal school day, at the school, at no cost to the school.

Another challenge is to continue to attract the best performing arts educators to our faculty. We can achieve this by growing the tuition bearing programs in particular, and remaining true to our core values of providing "real" performing arts education to our young actors.

In the ten years I have been involved with SPARC, I have seen many letters from parents, grateful to SPARC for having brought their child out of his or her shell; for having contributed to their child's growth and welfare. Some letters even stated they had been severely concerned about the mental health of their child and that SPARC had "saved" that child. Performing arts provides an outlet for the spirit of the child and nourishment to let that spirit grow, develop exceptional listening and teamwork skills, and encourages youth to realize that their success can only be achieved by helping the others around them achieve equal or greater success.

Areas of Service
Areas Served
Metro Richmond
Richmond, City
Chesterfield County
Henrico County
Hanover County
The bulk of SPARC's programs serve the populations of the City of Richmond and counties of Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover and Goochland. The New Voices for the Theater program, SPARC's acclaimed high school playwrighting competition and residency, is a statewide program and experiences participation from every corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Board Chair
Board Chair Ronald I Felmus
Company Affiliation Laffer Investments
Term Jan 2015 to Dec 2018
Board of Directors
Board Members
Pamela S. Belleman Troutman Sanders
Ram Bhagat Richmond Public Schools
Chris Booker-Carlisle St. Catherine's School
Rejena Carreras Carreras Jewelers
David Crank Community Volunteer/Set & Costume Director
Ronald I. Felmus Laffer Investments
Kathryn Fessler Altria
Sarah Hopkins Finley VA Council on Economics Education
Thomas S. Gay BMG Metals
Marc A. Greenberg Blackwood Development Company
Lynn C. Greer Brown Greer PLC
Sara Griebel Capital One
Jill Bussey Harris Beautiful Smiles Dentistry
Anne-Marie Irani VCU Medical Center
Susan Craven Johnson WKH Solutions
Pat Lawson Retired
Trina Lee CarMax
Maureen Matsen Christopher Newport Univeristy
Sakina Paige Wells Fargo/Early Dispute Resolutiion
Lisa Sims Venture Richmond
William Talley Bill Talley Ford
Linda M. Warren Retired Controller, Altria Group, Inc.
Patrick Williams Williams & Sherrill
Fred G. Wood IIIDominion
Anthony Yoo ChemTreat
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 5
Asian American/Pacific Islander 1
Caucasian 18
Hispanic/Latino 1
Native American/American Indian 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 11
Female 14
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Meeting Attendance % 80
Written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 80
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 6
Standing Committees
Board Governance
Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
Strategic Planning / Strategic Direction
Other Boards
The tables below contain information about other groups that advise this nonprofit on operations and projects.
Executive Director
Executive Director Mr. Ryan T. Ripperton

Ryan T. Ripperton has served as SPARC’s executive director since March 2010. His selection for this position resulted from a nine-month nationwide search. Since his arrival, participation in SPARC's enrollment-based classes has risen by 70%.

Prior to moving to Richmond to work for SPARC, Ripperton was executive director of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the nationwide men’s music fraternity, headquartered in Evansville, Indiana. He also served as chief operating officer of the Fraternity’s related foundation, the Sinfonia Educational Foundation. Through 11 years of service to these organizations, he advanced the operational, financial and governance practices, increased the quality of print and electronic communications, and heavily influenced several successful programs, including the expansion and retreat programs. He was instrumental in the reformation of the Foundation’s name and mission, and participated heavily in reshaping the Fraternity’s vision and strategic plan as it regained its footing as America’s premier music fraternity.

Ripperton holds a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from the University of Southern Indiana and a Bachelor of Music Education (B.M.Ed.) from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Since relocating to Richmond, he has become involved in the area arts community, including the CenterStage Resident Company Association and the Alliance for the Performing Arts.

Former CEOs
Jennie Brown June 1998 - June 2009
Jeri Cutler-Voltz Jan 1981 - May 1998
Senior Staff
Candace Mraz Director of Development
Erin Thomas-Foley Director of Education - Outreach
Full Time Staff 8
Part Time Staff 55
Volunteers 80
Contractors 2
Retention Rate 100
Organization has a Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has a Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 3
Date Strategic Plan Adopted May 2014
Management Succession Plan? No
Organization Policy and Procedures No
Nondiscrimination Policy Under Development
Whistleblower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes

SPARC operates classes during school hours, after school, and on weekends. Many classes are held at SPARC on N. Hamilton Street, as well as at satellite locations around the Richmond area. We generally follow the schedules of area school semesters.

SPARC classes follow a conservatory format of acting, stage movement, theater dance, singing, and voice for the stage, and are designed to expand the actor's range.

Classes are for youth aged 3 to 18 and include the following:

  • SPARC PLUGS (ages 3-4), MINI-SPARC (ages 5-6) and RISING STARS (ages 7-8), MUSICAL THEATRE FOR BEGINNERS and ADVENTURE THEATRE  (ages 6-7), and ADVENTURE THEATRE AND BEYOND (ages 8-9)  are introductory classes, teaching readiness skills through stage movement, theater games, and children's songs.
  • The CORE and STUDIO ACTING (ages 10-13)  programs includes singing, acting, and dance in each 2.25 hour class session. Improvisation and scripted material are used in teaching foundation skills. Audition techniques are taught.
  • BACKSTAGE BASICS, STAGE CRAFT and STUDIO PERFORMANCE classes (ages 11-18) are for teens and pre-teens with a serious interest in acting performance.
  • REHEARSAL & PRODUCTION classes (ages 11-18) are audition-based classes that build toward a fully staged performance of a theatrical work at the end of the term.
SPARC also offers a variety of ancillary courses, including theatre tech and specialty workshops in aspects of the performing arts. SPARC offers an extensive financial aid program, awarding over $60,000 in tuition waiver and reduction each year. SPARC offers full- and part-day camps and programs throughout the summer for ages 4 to 18.
Population Served K-12 (5-19 years)
Budget $1,290,454.00

SPARC’s in-school outreach  enrichment classes serve almost 400 students each year in 5 schools and community centers. Classes allow area children throughout Richmond the opportunity to try their hand at performing arts. These readiness classes allow young people to develop socialization skills while learning basic performer skills. Thanks to generous foundation, corporate, government and individual support, STAGES programs are offered free to participants in underserved neighborhoods.

Population Served Children Only (5 - 14 years)
Budget $90,000.00

The acclaimed New Voices for the Theater program expands SPARC’s reach statewide. This program accepts submissions of one-act plays from high school students throughout Virginia, providing them professional adjudication and inviting the top eight student playwrights to Richmond for a two-week residency. During the residency, the students work with a professional playwright to hone their skills and then work with a professional team of directors and actors to have their plays read in front of a live audience.

Population Served K-12 (5-19 years)
Budget $50,000.00
Description LIVE ART is a groundbreaking new performing arts education program that unites students with and without disabilities in inclusive classroom experiences.  The program culminates with a major public performance featuring all students performing alongside renowned professional musicians.
Population Served K-12 (5-19 years)
Budget $490,000.00
Fiscal Year
Projected Revenue $2,329,677.00
Projected Expenses $2,329,677.00
Endowment Value $60,000.00
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage (if selected) 5
Form 990s
IRS Letter of Exemption
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available) and revenue sources may not sum to total based on reconciliation differences. Revenue from foundations and corporations may include individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201620152014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$0$0$0
Individual Contributions$1,320,413$1,288,576$1,298,891
Investment Income, Net of Losses$15,390$8,563$21,253
Membership Dues------
Special Events------
Revenue In-Kind$142,413$9,291$11,529
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201620152014
Program Expense$1,721,739$1,681,435$1,321,581
Administration Expense$141,091$165,462$129,654
Fundraising Expense$259,374$272,751$225,904
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.041.031.27
Program Expense/Total Expenses81%79%79%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue20%21%17%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$4,472,251$3,873,408$3,666,196
Current Assets$487,130$985,981$899,814
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0--
Current Liabilities$795,147$286,125$145,119
Total Net Assets$3,677,104$3,587,283$3,521,077
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities0.613.456.20
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%0%
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? Yes
Campaign Purpose Thirty years ago, Jeri Cutler-Voltz followed her dream and called students and faculty together for the first SPARC class. In 1981, no one could have imagined the ecstatic growth and vitality SPARC is experiencing today. Having directly served over 15,000 students, and now reaching more than 2,300 more each year, SPARC has achieved a high level of educational and operational maturity. In 2008, SPARC announced a vision that will carry on the SPARC legacy for generations to come. To fulfill that vision, a transformative $6M capital campaign has been underway for facilities, program and outreach, and endowment. In 2012, SPARC received the two largest capital campaign gifts in its 32-year history: $500,000 from the Steven and Katherine Markel Foundation, and $1.5 million from an anonymous donor. With these gifts, SPARC completed the purchase of the SPARC Center at 2106 N. Hamilton Street and entered the final phase of the campaign. In order to complete our vision, SPARC has a critical need to add two more instructional studios, which will double the number of students served on campus, and establish an endowment for our future. For 27 years, SPARC operated a tiny, transitory administrative office and network of leased or borrowed instructional spaces. SPARC was a “program” but never a “place.” To support its leadership role in arts education in Richmond and to continue evolving in its service to young people, SPARC needed a home. That home was found at 2106 North Hamilton Street, in Scott’s Addition, a neighborhood in rapid redevelopment. The facilities were seemingly perfect, with a modest-sized administrative area, potential spaces for future multiple instructional studios, and a former taxi garage just right for repurposing as an innovative educational theater. Conveniently located at the crossroads of I-95, I-64, and the Powhite Parkway, and accessible by public transportation, the SPARC Center began its transformation in May 2008. Renovation and upfitting of the administrative offices, one instructional studio and dedication of the state of the art Sara Belle November Educational Theater was complete in November 2011. The final phase of the vision calls for adding two more instructional studios, fully renovating the Lobby and 2nd floor of the SPARC Center and provide accessibility to programs, productions and technical learning opportunities. Capital needs total $1.7 million. Distinctive naming and commemorative opportunities are available. Over $1,000,000 in initial capital campaign contributions have been restricted to diversifying and expanding program offerings in performing arts; developing programs providing performance opportunities for students with disabilities; increasing enrollment and expanding outreach in schools; and reaching new populations and audiences throughout the region and state. Outcomes are already evident – enrollment this year is up 32% over last; local outreach is now in 8 sites across regional elementary and middle schools and neighborhoods; and 40% more high school students across Virginia participate in New Voices for the Theater. Additionally, as SPARC’s student body grows, it must also increase financial aid in order to assure that no child is denied the opportunity for a SPARC experience because of an inability to afford tuition. To supplement existing modestly endowed scholarship funds, the SPARC Board of Director’s established a General Endowment Fund to help ensure the mission and program in the future. The General Endowment Fund will be the major force in sustaining programs, outreach, facilities, financial aid and operations – while supporting new performing arts education initiatives as the future unfolds. The campaign aims to raise $500,000 to expand The General Endowment Fund. SPARC’s first campaign has successfully entered its final phase to address the estimated $6,000,000 required to purchase, renovate and equip SPARC’s home; to expand and enhance program offerings and performance opportunities; and to establish an endowment fund. More than $4,900,000 has been secured in lead gifts. Early campaign success is due in large measure to five challenge grants: • A challenge from the Rosenthal and Belleman family to secure 100% of the Board of Directors in personal commitments. • An unprecedented 2- to-1, $250,000 challenge grant from The Cabell Foundation in 2009 and second 1- to-1, $250,000 challenge grant in 2013. • An extraordinary 2- to-1 $300,000 challenge from Neil and Sara Belle November. • An anonymous 2- to-1 challenge for the Board of Directors to establish the General Endowment Fund.
Goal $6,000,000.00
Dates June 2009 to Dec 2016
Amount Raised To Date $5,850,000.00
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes
State Charitable Solicitaions Permit
Solicitations Permit
Solicitations Permit 1/2017View
Foundation Comments
  • Financial information provided from audit
  • Form 990 and audit prepared by Lane & Associates, PC