The proud development director of the Toledo School for the Arts, Dave Gierke, explains, “When we opened this school almost 25 years ago, we realized that all of the students that attended were not going to end up on stage.”
The arts have many ancillary positions that offer creative and satisfying careers that have, along with the core arts classes in dance, theater, music and fine arts, now become regular offerings in Ohio’s most successful charter school.
“We teach our students how to market themselves,” Gierke said. “What they are learning is beyond the technical aspects of art and supporting positions, it is how to make those things into a career so that they are able to support themselves as adults.”
When the Toledo School for the Arts, commonly known as TSA, opened in the late 1990s in the downtown Secor Building, they had 135 students enrolled in grades 6 through 12. Now their enrollment has reached 760 students with a goal to increase that number to 840 in the near future. For the last several years, the Toledo School for the Arts has had a waiting list.
In 2005, the school moved to its current location at 333 14th St. In Uptown and added courses of study in recording, animation, stage sets, costuming and other arts related curricula. At the time, the school occupied two of the building’s four floors as tenants. Since then, TSA has expanded and now owns and occupies the entire building.
The Toledo School for the Arts began a fundraising campaign to enhance their space in 2021, focusing on two phases of upgrade and expansion for the school. In September 2022, Phase 1 of the project was completed including the installation of a new stairwell, which was necessary to meet building code requirements for students to move between floors, and the relocation of the school cafeteria, The Flying Pig. The new stairwell came at a cost of $1.3 million while the upgrading of classrooms and the cafeteria added another $500,000.
The original fundraising project goal started at $5 million. That number increased to a total budget of $10 million with Phase 2, comprising the building purchase, a new dance studio, the Black Box Theater, a video and technology lab, a scene shop, a textile arts lab and a recording studio.
“The fundraising efforts had three main purposes: to admit more students, to improve the facility and to increase sustainability to ensure that TSA is here for many years into the future,” Gierke explained.
The acquisition of the balance of the space in the building added another 17,000 square feet to the school’s footprint. It now includes a community portal, which houses a coffee shop, gathering space and gallery to provide a connection to the Adams Street corridor and the larger Toledo area community. The new updates allow the community to become more involved and learn more about the activities at TSA.
“We are moving community members along from being fans to being friends to being funders for our mission,” Gierke said. “The arts are not frivolous; artists create movement in our society.”
With a need to raise $500,000 annually to maintain the building and the programming, TSA is well on its way to meeting that requirement. Phase 2 will be completed by August 28, the date set for an open house to spotlight the new dance studio and Black Box Theater.
Considering the popularity of TSA in the community and the fact that the school’s core Arts and Marketing program has been adopted by the State of Ohio as a benchmark for measuring the success of other arts related schools across the state, the Toledo School for the Arts has a bright future as a jewel in the crown of Toledo’s Uptown.
For more information, visit ts4arts.org.