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COVID still disrupts arts groups' plans. McKinney's Ovation Academy is downsizing

Young Ovation Academy students in performance
Courtesy Ovation Academy
Young Ovation Academy students in performance

But the hope is to continue in a nimbler, outreach format.

Angi Burns established Ovation Academy of Performing Arts in 2018 as a conservatory focused on training young artists and designers in theater, dance and music. At its largest, Ovation had 43 full-time students, sixth through 12th grade. There were summer camps, workshops, stage performances and classes on profesional management. Many Ovation students earned scholarships to college.

But two years ago, COVID seriously reduced the enrollment. Burns and her staff moved to a smaller facility at 404 Power House Street in McKinney. With 8,800-square feet, the former office park had space for a black box theater, rehearsal rooms, offices, a dance studio and classrooms.

"It was really just a great space because we wanted to stay small," Burns said. "That was our goal - to individualize education for these aspiring artists. But our numbers didn't go back up because people were still afraid. We weren't able to grow as quickly as we wanted to."

In 2020, Ovation Academy moved into a former office park at 404 Power House Street in McKinney
Ovation Academy
In 2020, Ovation Academy moved into a former office park at 404 Power House Street in McKinney

The founder-director of Ovation could no longer afford staff to run the facility. Nor was she keen to do everything herself, especially now that her daughters were headed to college.

"I'm personally ready to take a step in a new direction," Burns said. "I've been in education for almost 20 years. And I'm just ready to move on and do a new chapter myself."

So the past two weeks, Burns has been emptying the academy's offices, selling furniture and electronic equipment. She's donating props and costumes to schools and arts groups.

Ovation will no longer have a permanent home. The facility was officially closed July 31st. And Angi Burns Consulting LLC will now be the independent producer of Shakespeare McKinney.

But by next spring, Burns plans to restructure Ovation "where we only offer the outreach programing and educational programing off campus."

It'll be a leaner, nimbler performing arts academy.

Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.