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19 inspiring images of Jason Mraz and SPARC bringing art to life at the Altria Theater

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RICHMOND, Va. — Grammy award-winner Jason Mraz and American Music Award-nominee Sara Bareilles joined more than 100 SPARC (School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community) students on stage Sunday night at the Altria Theater for LIVE ART: SOUL. The collaborative effort between the professional musicians and SPARC students (approximately half with including autism, Down syndrome and hearing or vision impairment) was the culmination of nine months of classes for the students.

“Dear School Of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, Thank you for teaching, encouraging, and inspiring me to lead with my heart. I love you too,” Mraz posted on Instagram. “Live Art RVA was a blast this year. I felt it all the way down to my soul with tears over flowing as I was so full of joy and amazement. Thanks for including me.”

“LIVE ART is one of the most beautiful and uplifting performances I have ever witnessed,” Tom Topinka, SPARC board member and volunteer, said. “The dedication of the SPARC team and the artists, who donate their time, is remarkable. Both are committed to making a difference in the lives of these impressionable individuals, and it is amazing to watch.”

In addition to Mraz and Bareilles, artists such as Rene Marie, Raining Jane, Chris Stills, Zak Resnick, Robbie Schaefer, Daniel Clarke, Susan Greenbaum, Jesse Harper, Drew Kullman, Josh Small and Robbin Thompson performed with the students.

SPARC’s director of education-outreach and LIVE ART’s creator Erin Thomas-Foley said SPARC students not only learn about performing on stage, but also how to use art to have a positive impact on their community.

“Our goal for LIVE ART: SOUL is to focus the students on compassion, to empathize with one another in different circumstances. We want it to make a difference in their young lives,”Thomas-Foley said. “These are skills that can be helpful in the prevention of bullying and the acceptance of all people.”

Mraz, who sister Candace is the Director of Development at SPARC, attended the event’s after party at Fat Dragon Chinese Kitchen & Bar on North Boulevard in Scott’s Addition.

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