Toledo School for the Arts Celebrates 20 Years

Daily Dose  |  09/13/2018 10:00 am

oledo School for the Arts is celebrating their 20th year during the 2018-19 school year. The school was founded in 1999 when a group of 130 students and 15 teachers started classes in the Secor Hotel in downtown Toledo. Since that time the school has moved to the old Jeep facility on 14th Street, the staff has grown to 85 and the halls are full of the energy of over 680 students.

Though some in the community proclaimed, “There will be an arts school in Toledo when pigs fly,” Toledo School for the Arts has not only succeeded but thrived. The school has been a frequent award winner gaining not only local but national notoriety. TSA has been the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Innovation, an Exemplary School by Arts Schools Network, and has been twice designated as the #1 rated community school in Ohio, as well as countless other awards.

Students at Toledo School for the Arts have also seen remarkable success. Amongst those are two students who gained national attention. In 2010 former TSA student Crystal Bowersox was named the runner up for the ninth season of American Idol. When asked about her time at TSA, Crystal said, “TSA instills the confidence and self-disciple necessary to pursue a life centered in the arts. I am truly grateful to have been a TSA student.” In 2016 TSA student Maya Ramirez competed in Project Runway Jr. and became the first (and youngest) contestant to win the nationally televised competition. Since Maya’s win, fashion has flourished at TSA, including an annual fashion show, Interwoven Musings, featuring dozens of original designs each year.

Many of TSA’s alumni have gone onto successful careers. Most go into fields unrelated to the arts, prepared for various careers through TSA’s outstanding academic programs. Some, as is to be expected, have also grown into careers in the arts. Notable among these are Jasmine Schmenk (Easler) who played Joanne in the 20th Anniversary Touring Company of RENT, Meg Sciarini who was the Lighting and Projections Technician for Cirque du Soliel and is now an AV Systems Engineer for Apple, and Leo Wilson who is the Senior Digital Media Manager at Premier Boxing in Las Vegas, NV.

TSA students are prepared for such successful careers by dedicated faculty and staff who themselves are flourishing artists and academics. English teacher, Justin Longacre started at TSA as a student teacher and this year, his son has started as a 6th grade student! Longacre is well known in the community as a poet and author, winning several poetry contests locally and regionally. Science teacher Pamela Haywood-Imbrogno brings years of field experience on paleontological digs in the US and Egypt to her classes as a biology teacher. Music students worked and played alongside local favorite, Ken Zuercher who retired at the end of the 2018 school year. Other exemplary faculty include Jay Welenc, who conducts the Toledo International Youth Orchestra; Lydia Horvath, who is a former NEA Teaching Artist Fellow; Diana Anderson, who is a veteran member of the Toledo Symphony; Megan Heer a member of one of Toledo’s most popular bands, the Amelia Earharts; Juliette Quinlan who is an Equity actress, and the list goes on and on. TSA’s dedicated faculty create unique and effective arts integrated curriculum that help to shape TSA’s award-winning academics. It isn’t just the programs that are award-winning. In 2018 Allison Gogel, a Junior Division Social Studies teacher won the BCAN teacher of the year! Dr. Mead said of TSA’s faculty and staff, "The TSA family is the most committed and invested group of individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with- this school is a true pillar of the Toledo community and a national model for educational excellence." 

Toledo School for the Arts is supported by a highly effective Board of Directors with a true vested interested in the school. Once such example is Rob Koenig, board president from 2001-2010. Not only has Rob led the board through major expansions, and participated in TSA productions every year since the school opened, his daughter Chelsea attended and graduated in 2004. Casey Koenig, Rob’s wife, has designed and created costumes for TSA productions since 1999. Like many TSA families, the Koenigs represent members of our community who have made TSA a substantial part of their lives.

Because TSA is a charter school, it operates on 40% less funding than traditional public schools. The school is supported by an outstanding development team lead by Dave Gierke, who received the Outstanding Fundraising Professional Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2017. TSA strives to offer experiences to their students like no other school, opportunities that let students perform authentic tasks involved in the arts, benefitting their growth and the school’s needs. Some of these opportunities were made possible by a successful 1.5 million Technology, Arts & Industry Campaign, concluded in 2017. This campaign made it possible to create a hub of arts and industry within the school, including a Video Lab, Recording Studio, and Fashion/Costuming space.

The School was established by Martin Porter. Dr. Douglas Mead succeeded Porter in 2015 as director. TSA’s arts programs are overseen by Artistic Director, David Saygers, who has been with the school since its founding, along with five others who have been with TSA all 20 years: David Gierke, Stephen Johnston, Diana Anderson, Randy Sobel and Talina Tolson.

TSA will be celebrating its 20th season as it does every year with over 120 performances in nearly every artistic discipline. Highlights of the year begin with Toledo’s first ever production of Catch Me If You Can on October 18-21, with additional productions of Elf Jr., Limitless, Kaleidoscope, film, music, dance, theatrical performances and over a dozen art exhibitions.

What was once a struggling start-up working to establish an identity amongst Toledo’s artistic institutions, has become on of the area’s most vital and exciting arts organizations, and a leader in arts education and school choice across the state. Join us at any one of the exciting performances and events during TSA’s 20th Anniversary celebration.



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