Mayor Bruce Furness

Trollwood Performing Arts School

The Quality of Trollwood Performing Arts School Instruction and Participant Performance:

The Trollwood Performing Arts School (TPAS) is a remarkable summer youth development program committed to providing high quality arts education, community entertainment, and an appreciation for/venue to celebrate cultural diversity. Located in the unique outdoor environment of Fargo's Trollwood Culture and Arts Park, TPAS serves approximately 450 youth in its summer program where the primary goal - to develop and deliver the highest standard of performing arts education - leads to heightened confidence, creativity, communication and collaboration skills within its students.

Every student participates in the creative process in a personal way. Programs are designed to be experiential and collaborative, where young people are encouraged to set goals, take risks and to view mistakes as an avenue of learning. These students experience the arts as constructive vehicles for personal expression, continually demonstrating to the Fargo-Moorhead community that, with the proper encouragement and training, they are capable of achieving amazing results. The unique programs of TPAS have changed the lives of thousands of young people, most significantly those kids identified as "at risk."

TPAS faculty are artists/teachers from around the country who embody a high degree of talent and skill in their specific fields, along with a demonstrated track record of successfully teaching children.

Program Design and Content:

At the core of TPAS is the June Session, offering over fifty classes in dance, theatre, music, technical theatre expressive writing and video production. The session culminates in a community open house, where students showcase their newly developed skills and enhanced self confidence.

Each summer TPAS produces a Main stage Musical, annually attracting 15,000+ audience members. Students participate in all aspects of an outdoor musical as cast, orchestra and technical crew members. Preceding each Main stage Musical performance is the World Arts Fest, featuring music, dance, and stories from all over the world, performed by students and guest artists.

Second Stage presents student created plays, as well as unconventional interpretations of theatre classics. Totally Trollwood serves 6th through 8th grade students by providing a "total theatre" opportunity, with experiences in theatre, music, dance, and technical theatre, resulting in the production of a childrens' play with music.

Dakota Spirits is an exceptional collaboration with Cass County Historical Society in which TPAS students work with theatre artists and area historians to portray characters at Bonanzaville pioneer museum. The United Nations recognized the TPAS IMAGINE program with its prestigious Peace Messenger Award, for promoting cross-cultural understanding through its innovative projects which bring artists and children from diverse cultures together to work in the arts.

In the Student Assistant program TPAS artist/teachers serve as mentors to upper level students, who are identified for their leadership potential, skill level, and open, positive attitude for the purpose of one-on-one training, career guidance and vocational support. Of particular interest in this award application - is the STAR (Students At Risk) program, which was initiated in 1998 at the encouragement of juvenile justice officials who had observed the positive impact of TPAS on their clientele. With their counsel, the STAR program was designed to pro-actively recruit and serve young people who would ordinarily not participate in TPAS because of barriers resulting from their personal situations. The STAR program provides the benefits of early intervention, a mentorship team, academic support, financial assistance, and transportation. TPAS recently expanded programming for youth at-risk by creating the Arts Adventure program, which targets youth identified as SED (severely emotionally disturbed) and engages them in the performing and media arts during the regular school year. Both programs mainstream at-risk students into TPAS programs and guide their transition into the arts activities of their home schools.

TPAS also serves as a job site for at-risk youth through the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program (SYETP) of the Job Service of North Dakota.

Creativity of Approach to Engaging Youth Participants and Integration of Support Services, Prevention Strategies, and Child Development Components with Arts Programming:

TPAS enlists the talents of student peers, former students, and guest artists-in-residence to make students aware of TPAS and to engage them in TPAS activities. In addition, TPAS works with North Dakota's East Central Juvenile Court, the Title VII-English as a Second Language program, Refugee Resettlement program, teachers, counselors and administrators in the schools. People Escaping Poverty Project, and members of the Region V Children's Service Coordinating Committee to identify and involve students who will benefit from TPAS. Also, with the creation of Arts Adventure, TPAS is now part of the Wrap Around Project, a collective approach to enveloping at-risk youth with all the support services needed to ensure their health and success.

At TPAS, students are surrounded by caring and talented artists who inspire students to adopt a high level of self-expectation and instill in them the values which open them to appreciating their own, and others', efforts and accomplishments.

Working with artists/teachers, young people learn to express themselves in positive and constructive ways through such activities as video production, expressive writing, improvisation and many other arts activities. The STAR Coordinator and mentors provide one-on-one guidance for each student. Each participant is given an individualized learning program, and the student's progress is closely monitored. Family involvement is encouraged, thereby influencing the way in which young people perceive their parents and improving communication between parents and children.

Evidence That Programming Is Making a Positive Impact in the Attitudes and Development of Youth:

"As a social worker who works with at-risk youth...the (TPAS) STAR program fills a gap in services that is so crucial to assist our youth in becoming responsible and productive adults in our community." -Susan Peterson, MSW, FargoTestimonials like this, and others in the supplemental materials, address the need and effectiveness of TPAS. An administrator at an alternative public school says that TPAS is a model for main streaming at-risk students into the regular school system. Other agency supervisors of at-risk students report that their students have gained a "want to succeed, positive attitude" at Trollwood. In 2000, the Arts Adventure project will be the subject of a research project with a local university sociology department to measure the impact of involvement in arts programs for at-risk kids.

The Mayor's and City Government's Role in this Process:

Mayor Bruce Furness served on the Board of Directors of the IMAGINE program and is actively involved in soliciting the support of area businesses and community leaders. Upon the encouragement of the mayor, the Fargo City Commission has included TPAS in its annual budget since 1990. He also makes a personal contribution every year. Mayor Furness is a regular participant at TPAS events and has served as the spokesperson (see "Sky's The Limit" video) for TPAS on numerous occasions. Mayor Furness continues to provide guidance and advice about the future development of TPAS.

Demonstration of Community Wide Support and Financing Mechanisms :

Each year hundreds of volunteers clock thousands of hours by supporting TPAS with their time and talents in the areas of set, props and costume construction, house management, box office, concessions, traffic control, providing meals and transportation for students, promotion, and fund-raising. These volunteers are the back bone of TPAS.

TPAS is a unique public-private partnership formed to as adult citizens of the 21st century. As a program of the Fargo Public Schools, offered in cooperation with the Fargo Park District, TPAS also partners with Future Builders, an independent nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to support TPAS, through solicitations from a vast network of community businesses, individuals, organizations and foundations. Annually, Future Builders raises over one-third of the total TPAS budget. Approximately one-fourth of the total revenue comes from Fargo Public Schools and another fourth from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. The remaining revenue comes from tuition, admissions, and various sources including concessions, advertising and merchandise sales. The Fargo Park District provides class, office, and performance space at no charge. In addition, In-kind goods and services add 15% onto the worth of the total budget.

TPAS is an excellent example of the great things that can happen for kids when the private and public forces of the community align with the intention of enhancing the lives of young people and the community at large.


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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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