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Richland Academy of the Arts History

   Richland Academy of the Arts was founded in 1991, and since has offered over 230 classes, workshops, master classes and individual instruction per year during two 16-week semesters and one 8-week summer term. The Academy’s excellence has resulted in six-day-a-week programming in music, dance, theater, and the visual arts. Located in downtown Mansfield, the Academy has not only developed a diverse and highly praised curriculum over the past twenty plus years, but also played an important role in the renaissance as well as the redevelopment of downtown Mansfield. A well-defined scholarship program awarding over $20,000 annually, funded through a community scholarship campaign and the Academy, has made it possible for students from economically-disadvantaged families to be active members of the Academy community. Participation in programs has grown steadily to over 3,038 class registrations per school year. An additional 10,000 area residents attend year-round performances, including choral concerts, adult and children’s theater, children’s opera theatre, musicals, jazz, dance and student and faculty recitals. Sources of funding in addition to tuition and fees include contributions from Individuals, Corporations, Businesses, Foundations (local, state, & national), State of Ohio Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council.


   In response to a tremendous community need, Richland Academy of the Arts was founded as a non-profit and multidisciplinary community school for the arts. It began serving area residents from ages as young as eighteen months through senior citizens in group and individual instruction. The student body began to grow quickly.


   Driven by sold-out classes, a fully booked schedule of programs, insufficient space, and a developing interest in a broader curriculum, the leadership of the Academy began to explore options for acquiring additional facilities and to plan carefully for the future with professional guidance. Before 1998, an Arts Program Coordinator was added to the staff.


   Property adjoining the 7,000 square feet already being used was secured for a total of 47,000 square feet. At the same time, the Board and community committees studied and developed the additional concept of hands-on science, given the natural link between the arts and the sciences. A Capital Campaign was launched and over the next several years $4.5 million was raised with the help of local, state, and national foundations including a $400,000 challenge grant from the prestigious Kresge Foundation as well as $400,000 from the State of Ohio.


   September of this year marked completion of Phase I building construction with a huge grand-opening celebration featuring visiting dignitaries and local supporters. The Gala for 250 guests included dancers from the New York City Ballet, the Columbus Jazz Arts Group for dancing, silent auction of NY hotels, and delicious food.


   A smaller Phase II was completed at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year. At all times, arts classes and performances continued throughout the construction phases.


   ZoomZone was opened in April 2003 from WGBH in Boston and sponsored by Time Warner. WVIZ carried promotional information about Richland Academy’s ZoomZone.


   Richland Academy continued to evolve into a truly unique learning center within the state, one that brought about a synergistic relationship between the arts and education. During this time a unique example of public/private partnerships developed between Richland Academy and the Mansfield City Schools new Entertainment Marketing: TV Broadcast Program and Dance Program in Career Education. The program was launched and developed at Richland Academy.


   The public/private partnership with Mansfield City Schools grew to include the unique IMAC Conversion School (charter school), a drop-out recovery program, offering graduation diplomas with career training in Building Trades and Integrated Digital Media. Arts classes continued to thrive and grow. Fall of 2005 found the Academy discontinuing science offerings and reinventing itself with charter and career education and arts classes.


    Richland Academy was encouraged to apply and successfully completed an intensive application process through the Ohio Department of Education to become a Sponsor of Community Schools in Franklin, Cuyahoga, Lucas, Richland, and Summit Counties in Ohio. Later, Hamilton and Mahoning Counties were added to the sponsorship. The Academy works with the Governing Authority, monitors and oversees the school’s performance academically and fiscally and ultimately will assist in the development of arts programming.


   Between 2004 and 2009 two additional charter schools were launched on the 2nd floor of the building; Constellation Elementary, and later, Foundation Academy. Both were rentals, but Foundation Academy utilized Richland Academy for arts education. Another public/private partnership was created when Richland Academy helped to develop and became a satellite campus for a Performing Arts Academy in music, theatre, dance, and film. The College Tech Prep Program for Performing Arts was a partnership between Pioneer Career and Technology Center and Richland Academy in cooperation with The Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College. Juniors and Seniors in 30 area high schools were able to participate as a part of the Tech Prep Consortium.


   In fall of this year, Richland Academy developed (not sponsored) a charter/community school within the Richland Academy of the Arts for grades 5-8 to offer rigorous academics and an integration of the arts. Richland Academy School of Excellence was created.


   Fourth grade was added to the Richland Academy School of Excellence. The sponsor of the Richland Academy School of Excellence (RASE) is the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center in Tiffin, Dr. Jim Lahoski, Superintendent.


    During this time, kindergarten through grade three were added which completed a K-8 charter school education. The arts experiences for the students continue to develop and are intertwined with the Academy’s arts programming.


   A Board retreat held in January 2014 focused the Academy efforts on redeveloping arts classes and workshops to meet the needs of an ever changing and diverse community. Strategically, the Academy has offered more variety in new music offerings including Music Camps, Rock Ensemble, Academy Young Singers, and Kidzrock, a creative rock ensemble experience for 4-7 year olds developed and licensed in St. Louis and offered for the first time in Ohio at the Academy.

   Academy collaborations include the following: Area Agency on Aging for senior programming, Arthritis Foundation for senior Tai Chi, Children’s Theatre Foundation, Mansfield City Bicentennial/4th of July Richland Academy Production, Kingwood Center, Richland Newhope Center, Foundation Academy Charter School - Arts Exploration program, area Public Schools -Young Voices, Royal Scott Highlanders Bagpipe Band, Brush and Palette Club, Ohio State University at Mansfield dance classes, the Ohio Department of Education with Sponsorship of Community Schools around the state and the Ohio Arts Council with funding.


    Richland Academy began the process of developing a well thought out Strategic Plan led by a consultant versed in planning. The Board of Directors has voted and accepted the new Mission and Vision. To date, the staff and board are moving forward with a defined plan for the future. Early Childhood Education will play an important role in the Academy’s programming. Development of additional arts programming has led to an active Early Arts Division. Additional partnerships have been developed with North Central State University and “Come Grow with Me” billboard campaign for the downtown including the Area Agency on Aging painting classes at the Academy. A very successful collaboration was developed with all Richland County Agencies charged with the safety of children when we brought Elec Simon to Mansfield and a weeklong “Drumming for Hope” workshop countering bullying. The workshop culminated in a wonderful “Stomp” like performance for the community. From the beginning to the end there was a 100% retention of students. The dance performances throughout the year have continued the artistic and professional presentations required by our Department Chair, Artist in Residence and department instructors.


   Strategic Planning has continued as the staff and board refine the policies and direction of the Academy for the future. This year (after 24 years) saw the inaugural production of the Nutcracker Ballet which will become an annual tradition at the Academy. The Education and Development Program at the Academy has been preparing for the new Sponsor Quality Review under the Ohio Department of Education.


   As Richland Academy continued to “broaden our arts door” so that persons not poised for an arts career but wanting to experience the arts for sheer enjoyment and satisfaction have found the recreational track to be appealing. Drop-In-Classes and multiple length classes offer more opportunity in a busy world no matter the age. Examples include the following: ukulele- all ages, keyboarding in Spanish, crafting, bootie yoga. Dance and music performances from our classes have a complete schedule of show. Our largest fundraiser “A Night at the Academy” to benefit the Scholarship Fund raised 21% more than last year. From Fall & Spring of 2013-2014 to Fall & Spring of 2016-2017 our student count has increased 65% and class registrations have grown by 81%.


   With the assistance of the Richland County Foundation, Richland Academy of the Arts was able to conduct a national search and employ our first-ever Director of Music. The Director’s responsibilities include harnessing the energy of our part-time faculty and expanding programs into our community resulting in not only economic growth for the Academy, but the community at large. Additionally, we were able to add new programming under our Early Arts umbrella by becoming a licensed facility for Music Together. The dance department, in collaboration with an area performance venue, was able to host the All Ohio Dance Festival bringing over 1,500 people into the Downtown Mansfield Area. Over 400 dancers participated in master classes at our facility during the day followed by the evening performance. 

Richland Academy is a supporting resource for other organizations in our community:

• Sister Cities first International Festival

• NCSC Entrepreneur Workshop

• The Charity Christmas Party for 800+ needy children

• Brush & Palette Club

• Royal Scot Highlanders

• Mid-Ohio Songwriters

• Miss Ohio interview space

• Mansfield Fire Department

• Escort for Santa in the Downtown Mansfield Parade

• Madison High School Drama Club Production at RA

• The Caffiends and other new groups in performances and rehearsals

• Bob Cox and Friends performances and rehearsals

• OH 70 performances and rehearsals

• Boyd Trio performances and rehearsals

• Richland Newhope

• Kingwood Center

• Ohio State University at Mansfield- dance credit programs

• Ohio Department of Education- 10 Charter Schools in Ohio

• Area Agency on Aging- long association for active Senior Programs

• Costumes and Props for many groups:

o Air National Guard

o Brinkerhoff Elementary School

o Foundation Academy

o St. Peter’s musical and homecoming

o St. Paul’s Lutheran Church o St. Timothy Lutheran Church

o IRS Office

o Bucyrus Little Theatre

o Mansfield Senior High School o High Jinks Dance Co.- Columbus with Kristina Isabel

   Richland Academy continues to build arts programming and refine its role as a sponsor of Ohio Community Schools. Also important are the relationships with The Ohio State University at Mansfield, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Arts Council. In the future we will continue to offer new and innovative programming to Mansfield, the surrounding counties and the State of Ohio.

The staff at the Richland Academy shares in your desire for all to have an exceptional experience with the arts. The best way to see if the programs currently offered at the Academy are a fit for you is to request information »

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