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SPARC Inherits Theater’s Endowment

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An increasing debt and an aging subscription base contributed to TVa.’s demise in 2002, when it was left holding a pot of endowment money. “These funds were not available for paying off creditors,” explains Ivey, because the money was set up through a separate foundation meant to go towards an endowment. But because the theater struggled with operating costs, he says, it was never a priority to build the endowment.

In contrast, SPARC’s after school and summer training programs in movement, acting, playwriting and a variety of theater arts for children ages 5 to 18 are healthy and growing rapidly. In 1998 the program enrolled 300 students — 3 percent of whom were minorities — and had a budget of $200,000. Today it enrolls 1,500 students — 30 percent of them minorities — and has a budget of $500,000.

“We run a tight organization,” says SPARC associate director Larry Brown. “We’re 23 years old and we’ve been in the black all those years. We’re probably one of only two arts organizations that can claim that.”

Brown says the money will go to a student with a promising future. “We’re going to give a nice present to a kid who has the interest and ability in the craft of theater — the type of kid who will go to a Juilliard or Northwestern or NYU will receive this.”

And SPARC has had those types of kids. Some alumni of note include pop vocalist Jason Mraz and Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner.

The foundation isn’t giving everything away. It will use about $5,000 of its endowment to archive TVa. documents and memorabilia, mostly photographs and files relating to productions over the years. “We want to make sure that the records that relate to the productions of TheatreVirginia are available to people that may have some interest in the history of theater in Richmond,” Ivey says. — Carrie Nieman

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