RICHMOND, Va. -- Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz returned home to Richmond Friday to help dedicate a new building on the campus of SPARC, the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community.
The building was named after Mraz's late grandfather John Robert Powell.
Mraz, who is from Mechanicsville, graduated from SPARC programs. His sister Candace is SPARC's Senior Director of Development.
"At the time of his passing in 1990 at the premature age of 59, my grandfather was reading You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought by John-Roger and Peter McWilliams. A quote he had marked in that book reads, ‘I want death to find me planting my cabbages.’ My grandfather’s legacy to those who follow him is the optimism, generosity, and selflessness with which he lived. Were he here today he would not desire to be in the spotlight, but he would be ’planting cabbages‘ here at SPARC. His exemplary life serves as a champion for the students, their families, the staff, the teachers, the volunteers, and for the Greater Richmond community that is SPARC," Jason Mraz said.
SPARC students joined Mraz, 39, to sing a new original song he wrote in honor of his grandfather .
"For almost 35 years, SPARC relied primarily on borrowed and rented spaces. Now we can serve 120 students simultaneously onsite at SPARC, in addition to the hundreds of students that we serve offsite at partner organizations," SPARC Executive Director Ryan Ripperton said of the John Robert Powell Center, the centerpiece of a capital campaign that has raised over $6 million since April 2008. "In addition to allowing this building expansion, the campaign increased our community outreach by expanding STAGES, our in-school arts education program, serving over 500 public school students in underserved neighborhoods. The campaign also aided in preparing the launch our innovative, award-winning inclusion program, LIVE ART."
Money raised during the campaign has been spent on expanding and improving the facilities on the SPARC campus including the purchase of the two-acre, two-building property; creation of three instructional studios; the creation of a 100-seat state-of-the-art black-box theater and two theater tech areas (lights/sound and carpentry), according to SPARC.
"In addition to expanded instructional space, the campaign has allowed SPARC to ensure full accessibility to all spaces for students and guests with disabilities; protect the safety of students with upgraded exterior drop-off and pick-up locations; increase office capacity and efficiency by bringing over 60 adjunct faculty and staff together for creative workspace; and established a general endowment fund to support new performing arts education initiatives and ensure that no child is denied the opportunity for a SPARC experience because of an inability to afford tuition," an organization spokesperson noted.
SPARC's campus is located on North Hamilton Street in Richmond.