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History of SPARC

Jeri Cutler-Voltz

SPARC’s founder, Jeri Cutler-Voltz (1951-1998), was known to possess a luminous personality, a loving heart, and the voice of an angel.

According to Jennie Brown, Artistic/Executive Director from 1998-2009 and one of SPARC’s founding teachers in 1981:

“The idea of a school for the performing arts came to her slowly as a vision made clear during her training in New York as an actress and singer. When she returned to Richmond, she practically willed SPARC into existence! With very little money, but with resolute devotion to young artists, and a sense of thriftiness, Jeri carried SPARC through nearly two decades. In the arts world, two decades is a long, and usually exhausting tenure.

“I remember our early discussions on how she should build her fledgling school. She said she wanted to train triple threats, or well-rounded performers, by teaching them acting, singing and dancing in each session. She took a chance on housing SPARC in churches. She carted kids and parents off to New York or on retreats on weekends, and drove SPARC shows all over the place for performances. She taught classes and musically directed every summer show to keep her teaching skills sharp and SPARC focused. Jeri was SPARC. She left a strong, viable, valuable organization with a bright future.”

It was 1981, in a small classroom at 1328 West Main Street in Richmond, when Jeri hosted her first SPARC class. Thirteen teens showed up. Three-and-a-half decades later, SPARC has changed the lives of thousands of children throughout the region. Jeri’s legacy shines each and every day in the eyes of the students whose lives are inspired by the school she created.

Jeri Cutler-Voltz

Among Jeri’s best known roles as a professional actor in Richmond was as Sister Mary Amnesia in Barksdale’s 1988 production of “Nunsense.”

Jeri Cutler-Voltz