2015-2016 saw the continued advancement of SPARC’s mission in the community, with SPARC serving more than 2,300 students in our broad range of training and outreach programs for young people.
Our vision is to profoundly influence the life of every student we serve through exceptional performing arts education. We believe that SPARC’s programs create profound influence, and this phrase is carefully chosen to suggest the depth of impact we seek to create in our students’ lives. While “profound influence” may be a very high standard to seek, it is consistent with feedback we receive frequently from students and parents throughout our broad range of programs. If our vision is to create profound influence, then our faculty can begin with that end in mind and plan our programs around that goal.
2015-2016 also saw a massive transformation of the SPARC campus. The capital campaign that began in 2008 with the purchase of the campus on North Hamilton Street entered its final phase with the renovation to the heart of the facility. 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:
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; $800K is needed annually to sustain SPARC's outreach programs.
SPARC has set a goal to raise $2M by 2018 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.
For 35 years, SPARC has been “setting the stage for life” serving youth, schools, families and communities throughout the Richmond, Virginia region. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Classes are for youth aged 3 to 18 and include the following:
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.
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.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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