To provide quality accessible arts education programs for Jackson County youth regardless of their financial means.
Jackson School of the Arts is a vibrant welcoming inclusive place that provides arts education programs for all ages and abilities.
Over the next 3 years Jackson School of the Arts will transition into a prominent arts and cultural center, expand programming and further sustain our standing as the largest provider of arts education in Jackson County and the region.
Since 2001, Jackson School of the Arts mission is to make the arts accessible to Jackson County youth regardless of their financial means. The work of including, finding and providing programs to students not served anywhere else is at the center of the Jackson School of the Arts efforts. In September 2007 the “school” relocated to the ART 634 building next to Armory Arts Village.
We serve all youth by providing high quality low cost out-of-school programs for ages 2 ½ to 17 in art, dance and theater. Children come to take after school classes from all surrounding counties. Many are at-risk as identified by these indicators: poverty, welfare dependence, one parent household, un-wed mothers or both parents absent. We know that kids need an outlet for their creativity and energy. If this is stifled, they’ll find other ways of engaging in negative behavior. 82% of the youth we serve are on scholarship or are paying at the lowest levels of the income scale.
Research has shown that “learning in and through the arts can help level the playing field for youngsters from disadvantaged circumstances.” The act of artistic creation expands and inspires young minds. An education rich in the arts is critical to the full intellectual, emotional, and social development of children – further, successful out-of-school programs have demonstrated that frequent access to and participation in the arts helps decrease and prevent negative behaviors in at-risk youth.
Jackson School of the Arts has grown into an organization with a reputation for excellence. We continually put a quality experience before profit which is why we keep class sizes small, frequently evaluate our programs and conduct research on best practices. We attribute our steady growth to the values we uphold as an organization.
The Jackson School of the Arts offers programs for all ages and levels in the visual and performing arts. We provide over 120 weekly classes on-site classes to over 700 students and partner with public schools and organizations to provide enriching out-of-school arts activities throughout the community. With on and off-site programs Jackson School of the Arts serves approximately 2,500 children each year. It’s no wonder that Jackson School of the Arts has become the “go to” organization for arts education programs. Our staff of professional artists, actors and dancers are as at home in our studios as they are on stage. Click here to learn more about our classes and programs.
Jackson School of the Arts was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2001 by a woman named Leslie Montgomery who saw that many of her children’s friends and peers had no access to arts programming because it wasn’t offered during school, and they could not afford the high cost of after school classes and programs.
She believed that all children regardless of their financial means should have a means to discover and experience the arts. With this vision Jackson School of the Arts was created and it’s mission remains the same today: to make the arts accessible to all children in Jackson regardless of their financial means. What started as a very small program serving 40 children has grown into a center for arts that serves 700 children each week with long term classes and is also a resource to the community for arts education programming.
Jackson School of the Arts enables children to discover their creative potential with out-of-school programs in dance, art and theater. Classes have always been taught by paid instructors, and we have always based class fees on income.
There is no other organization in our community that provides in-depth on going arts programming that is inclusive to all. Our organization has been successful to date because we focus on the people and the community we serve and also pay close attention to current trends both locally and at the national level.
Offered private piano lessons for 15 children at the Martin Luther King Center, the Boos Recreation Center and the Word of Light Outreach Center. Ballet for 25 students was offered at the McCulloch Elementary after school program.
The office moved out of the founder’s house to 804 S. Milwaukee and an administrative assistant was hired. Partnered with the Martin Luther King
Center to put on The Wiz. The theater production included 50 children and 250 people attended the performance.
Ballet classes were offered at Northeast Elementary as part of the Jackson Public School Project Success Program and culminated with a ballet recital and spaghetti dinner. K.A.S.T was also offered (kids after school theater) at Northeast Elementary School and 35 children participated. A K.A.S.T. also ran at Hunt Elementary serving 17 students ages 6-10 and the group produced “Big Bad Wolf on Trial.”
Jackson School of the Arts created a week-long summer arts camp for low to moderate income children the summer that ran 2002-2006. The cost per camper was $40. The camp grew from 48 children in its first year to 65 and served youth, ages 9 – 15.
The Jackson School of the Arts moved to an old elementary school building on Longfellow where it rented an office and 2 classrooms. Here the first dance classes outside of the school system were offered. Assistant Director Kim Hastings (Curtis) was hired.
The partnership with Jackson Public Schools continued wherein JSA provided before and after school arts programs at area elementary, middle schools, and the alternative high school serving approximately 100 kids each year. We formed new partnerships to provide arts programs to youth including the Florence Crittenon Services, the Court Reporting Program, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts
Founder Leslie Montgomery moved and Kim Curtis became Executive Director.
The Board of Directors adopted a “Renewed Plan-New Future Plan.” In an effort to avoid duplication of efforts in our community, we consolidated our piano program with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra Community Music School. After a short and successful fundraising campaign we relocated the Jackson School of the Arts to the up and coming arts and cultural district next to Armory Arts Village. We renovated 2,300 square feet of an old factory space to include 2 studios suitable for dance and theater, an art classroom, a parent waiting room, reception area and administrative office. As a result of an effective marketing plan, we tripled student enrollment. Added a part time administrative assistant.
Tough economic years for the Jackson community. We saw many nonprofits close. Our enrollment was not affected and in fact we grew.
We added a third dance studio. 2 full time staff.
Expanded our waiting area to accommodate more parents and siblings.
Added Saturday programming to accommodate growth and demand for classes.
We added a 50 seat theatre and dance store. 3 staff (added receptionist)
Added a small café and a “mini museum.”
Added a 4th dance studio, Friday and more Saturday classes to accommodate program growth. Hired a part time Assistant Director and a new Artistic Director. We added a pre-professional dance company. The board formed a relocation committee to address organizational growth.
In 2004 Kim joined Jackson School of the Arts as Assistant Director and became Executive Director in 2005 when its founder moved out of the area. In 2007, the Jackson School of the Arts relocated to Jackson’s up and coming arts district near Armory Arts Village. She led the organization to consolidate its piano program with the JSO Community Music School to avoid duplication of efforts and has successfully added visual arts and theater to program offerings. Under her direction student enrollment for on-site programs has increased from 40 in 2004 to over 850 today and Jackson School of the Arts has become the leading provider of arts education in our community. The organization is nearing its capital campaign goal to relocate to the historic Masonic Temple to create a downtown center for the arts.
Kim has been working in the arts for over 28 years for nonprofits and in corporate philanthropy at the American Express Foundation where she coordinated the international cultural and historic preservation grant programs. While at American Express, she developed and wrote a grants manual for use by over 40 international offices containing information on giving guidelines and grant making procedures. She also evaluated proposals from organizations requesting funds.
When she moved to Michigan in 1994, she was hired as the first executive director of Dance Gallery Foundation, the umbrella organization for Peter Sparling Dance Company and Dance Gallery Studio in Ann Arbor. (Peter Sparling is a former principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company and was Chair of the UM Dept. of Dance) Under her direction the organization received the 1998 Governors’ Artist Award and was a nominee for the Nonprofit Enterprise at Work Excellence in Management Award. She also led the organization to establish an endowment fund.
Kim is the Chair of the Jackson Public Arts Commission, a board member of the Jackson Symphony Guild and is a member of Business and Professional Women. She also serves on the Baker Tea Committee and belongs to Women Who Care, organizations that raise funds for a variety of nonprofit organizations.
“Providing the arts for our children is vital to the health and development of our community. I’m honored to serve the Jackson School of the Arts as a community member and as a parent of a current student.”
“In my role at JTV, I have been able to help shine a light on the great people and organizations in our community, and Jackson School of the Arts is one of my very favorites. I’m also a student of JSA, and so impressed with Kim Curtis as a leader, and with all their staff. This is my opportunity to give back, to an organization that has given so much to me. I look forward to doing my small part as JSA transitions into the historic downtown Masonic Temple Building.”
“Growing up with a crayon always in my hand and a love for drawing and art I’m honored to be a part of the Jackson School of the Arts and to serve an organization that provides such meaningful and accessible programming to our community. I feel as though I get to be a part of coloring brighter futures for our kids!”
“I first became involved with JSA as a parent looking for a fun activity for my child. I am honored to now be a part of providing an artistic outlet to many more children in our community!”
“I am passionate about the arts and am really excited by the mission of the Jackson School of the Arts and its commitment to accessibility. Additionally, as the father of a little girl who loves the arts, is taking a dance class at JSA, and happens to have special needs, I am extremely passionate about making the arts accessible to all children, not just those with financial constraints. Our community desperately needs the arts, and JSA provides it in a professional, friendly, and relationship-based approach. I have lived in Jackson for twenty years and have been in higher education administration and nonprofit management since 1998. I have deep and widespread relationships in Jackson County and can bring those relationships to the table to help advance the Jackson School of the Arts.”