The Summer Performing Arts Company


The Summer Performing Arts Company

Grand Forks Public Schools
2211 17th Avenue South
Grand Forks, ND 58201
Phone: 701.746.2411
Fax: 701.746.2406

Focus: Dance, Drama, Music,
Visual Arts

Annual Number Participating: 1,400

Ages: 5–18

Annual Budget: $400,000

Partners: Grand Forks Foundation for Education; Grand Forks Public Schools

Funders: City of Grand Forks – North Valley Arts Council; Gate City Bank; Grand Forks County Commission; Grand Forks Herald; Grand Forks Public Schools; Myra Foundation; Opp Construction; Private Donations; US Bank

North Dakota is home to a creative “spa” that attracts K–12 students from the Grand Forks area, nearby Minnesota, and as far away as Germany and the Philippines. The Summer Performing Arts Company, also known as The SPA Company, offers extensive music and drama training that improves the lives of underserved youth.

By intertwining age-appropriate artistic elements among ten activity divisions, each incorporating a mentoring and outreach program, The SPA Company meets the needs of diverse participants of varying ages and abilities.

This arts education program is a project of the Grand Forks Public School system (GFPS). More than 60 regional educators and artists spend four to six weeks nurturing The SPA Company participants, as they discover their creative side. In four- to eight-hour daily sessions, students gain exposure to and an understanding of the performing arts. Through dramatics, games, and exercises, participants develop characters, create plays, rehearse, and perform for each other. They also learn how to build theatrical sets and props, run sound equipment, apply stage makeup, and write songs.

Youth in grades three through nine can audition for the Grand Cities Children’s Choir, which meets after school during the year. Middle and high school musicians in Bands on the Red learn marches, show tunes, and movie theme songs that they perform in a concert at the end of their session. High school students can share their summer experiences through song and dance, during main stage performances, or train as part of the behind-the-scenes technical and production team.

The SPA Company customizes its offerings to meet ability levels, too. The English Learners SPA component opens the door for new American learners to increase their self-confidence in public settings, while developing their language and pronunciation skills. Children with special needs enjoy a variety of outlets for creative expression, including music, movement, literature, and visual arts. Additional instruction helps to prepare older students with special needs for their transition into adulthood.

Learning experiences in the ten activity divisions increase students’ skills and self-esteem. Participants also form lasting friendships. Be it show-and-tell style or a full-fledged production, all summer programs end with a curriculum-related performance that reflects the young people’s personal growth and new abilities.

Of the 7,400 students in the GFPS district, The SPA Company reaches 1,400 with its perennial programs. Many participants begin their journey while in kindergarten and leave as high school graduates. Students can also earn elective arts credits that count toward graduation. Since its inception 30 years ago, The SPA Company has positively affected the lives of more than 21,400 pupils throughout the greater Grand Forks region. And, thanks to financial supporters, no student has ever been denied access to its arts education offerings.

Performing arts are often left out of the regular curriculum, and this program fills the gap for our community. Not only is The Summer Performing Arts Company a place for students to hone their artistic talents, but it is also where they become members of a larger community that welcomes the rich diversity that each individual brings.

Emilia Hodgson Executive Director, Grand Forks Foundation for Education