The Next Big Thing: Toledo School for the Arts Breaks Ground on 9-Million-Dollar Expansion Project

Toledo School for the Arts recently broke ground on the construction of a $9 million expansion project called The Next Big Thing. The plans for Toledo School for the Arts (TSA) are more than an expansion and renovation of the school’s building. The new studio spaces, stairwell, cafeteria, classrooms, and community portal mean that TSA can expand programming and increase community engagement.  

Increased Enrollment

A new stairwell may not seem critical to expanding programming, but TSA is currently limited to 700 total students because of the size of the stairwell. Once the new basement-to-rooftop stairwell is completed, TSA will be able to increase the number of students who can attend. The annual wait list to get into TSA is 200 and TSA will be able to admit an additional 140 students, a 20 percent increase. 

Expanded Programming

The Next Big Thing includes building a new annex with a black box studio. A black box studio is a flexible space where a variety of performances for smaller audiences can be held onsite. “It will have the flexibility to be a dance space one day, a theater space the next, and then a concert space, all in the course of three days,” explains Rob Koenig, Interim TSA Director. 

The expansion also includes numerous new or upgraded classrooms and studios. New dance studios will be created that are free of building columns that currently restrict dance instruction.  In addition, a new student lounge and café space will be added.

TSA Community Portal

A top priority for the project is the creation of a Community Portal located along the Adams Street Corridor in the Uptown Neighborhood. The portal will provide “greater access for the community to learn about us and greater access for our kids to be involved with the community,” says Dave Gierke, TSA Development Director. 

  • The Community Portal includes a new student gallery, maker’s space, school store, and glass kiln studio that will be open to the public. These spaces will be able to completely open to the sidewalk along Adams Street with large doors that roll up like a garage door. 
  • TSA students will learn about operations for arts-related businesses such as publishing, retail, and artist management. “Everything on this site is going to be concentrating on income generating funding for the school as well as opportunities for kids to work the ancillary positions of the industry,” says Gierke. 
  • The community will have more access to the resources of TSA. The portal provides a place where community members can learn about hiring a student performance group, taking an art class, or using one of the many types of studio spaces such as the recording studio, digital lab, filmmaking, metalsmithing, and glassmaking studios. 

Funding for the expansion project is a community effort as well. The Next Big Thing reached $9 million in funding through donations from hundreds of TSA “ARTners” and Alumni. The new annex will be named after Stuart and Maxine Frankel as lead donors. Koenig explains that community and charter schools don’t get government funding for building and infrastructure, and TSA is in a 114-year-old building. Community support for this expansion means that Toledo School for the Arts will continue to grow as a national model for blending the arts and academics. 

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