Big dreams, small town

Creative Performing Arts Center

Tisto Chapman tries to give low-income families top-notch training.<br>

Tisto Chapman tries to give low-income families top-notch training.

Creative Performing Arts Center is at 232 E. Plumb Lane, Suite N, in Park Lane Mall. For schedules and more information, call 827-2722.

Five hundred miles separate Reno and Los Angeles. When he was trying to break into the entertainment industry, Reno native Tisto Chapman found that the two cities may as well be on different planets. He has been bridging that gap ever since.

After living in Los Angeles and working with some of the best performing arts instructors in the world, Chapman decided to turn around and bring Hollywood-caliber training to his hometown.

In spring 2001, Chapman opened the Creative Performing Arts Center. His mission was to give local youth access to top-notch dance, acting and voice instruction—whether they could afford it or not. In the past two years, CPAC has developed a curriculum of dance, voice and acting classes taught by talented locals and big names from Hollywood. Chapman has brought in choreographers who have worked with Janet Jackson, the Backstreet Boys and Missy Elliot to teach hip-hop dance classes.

“I don’t see why Reno should have a different level of instruction from L.A., why only certain kids should get that opportunity,” Chapman said. “I think all kids deserve a fair shot.”

CPAC is a non-profit organization and offers scholarships to low-income children and teens. According to Chapman, this creates a diverse, positive environment where race, class and family background take a back seat to talent and dedication. He also notes that “at-risk” youth who participate in the arts tend to have fewer problems with crime and drug use, and he has seen firsthand the positive impact of his programs.

“When you look in a kid’s eyes, and they have that look that says ‘I’m doing well at something,’ they’re so excited … you realize that’s what this is all about.”

Now in its third year, CPAC is artistically flourishing. More than 200 young people, ages 2 through 20, attend classes at the studio in Park Lane Mall. Recent local performances have included the Nutcracker, Extreme Dance and a guest spot at Spring Jam. CPAC dancers have also performed at Disneyland, and Chapman recently introduced an aspiring boy band to an L.A. producer. He frequently takes groups to California, keeping the kids in touch with the professional entertainment world. Still, Chapman dreams of a day when stardom will not require travel.

“These kids have big dreams and a lot of talent,” he said. “If Reno had more shows like Extreme Dance, more artistic outlets, we could keep our talent here. It’s certainly possible. It’s just a matter of raising the bar.”

Chapman’s dream of Reno as a city of artists is slowly coming true, and he believes that the culture will continue to grow. CPAC owes much of its success to a supportive community. Donations have come in from individuals and companies, both monetary and practical. Chapman is trying to find an airline to assist with the choreographers’ travel, and he is developing a “Sponsor a Child” program to provide more scholarships for low-income children.

Of course, nothing keeps an arts center alive like the artists themselves. Aspiring young performers and parents are invited to visit the studio and try out a free class.