August 16, 2013

Portland 'best place' in world for circus college, founder says

The Circus Conservatory of America hopes to convert a building on Thompson's Point into a school for up to 120 students.

By Randy Billings
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Kia-Melinda Eastman performs Thursday after the announcement that the fledgling nonprofit Circus Conservatory of America plans to open a college-level circus school in 2015 at Thompson’s Point in Portland.

Photos by John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Peter Nielsen, president of the Circus Conservatory of America, left, joins developer Chris Thompson. The school’s uniqueness will be well worth the wait, Thompson said.

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The commission then issues a report to the State Board of Education and the Legislature's Joint Committee on Education for approval.

The conservatory would need its degree-granting authority before it can receive its NEASC accreditation, said Barbara E. Brittingham, the director and president of NEASC's commission on institutions of higher education.

NEASC also has a rigorous accreditation process, involving 19 steps. The school must prove its eligibility by meeting certain standards, such as enrolling, educating and graduating students. Once eligible, it must follow a process for candidacy, whereby it must meet a standard of integrity stating that it can meet all of its goals within five years.

Brittingham said the conservatory can issue degrees before it is accredited. Accreditation will allow students attending the conservatory to be eligible for financial aid, she said.

Thursday's news conference, attended by more than 50 people, ended with an exhibition of contemporary circus performance.

Lindsay Culbert-Olds performed a routine on an aerial strap suspended from a large crane, while Kia-Melinda Eastman performed from a single rope.

City officials are optimistic, not only of the circus conservatory's chances of succeeding, but about the $100 million mixed-use Thompson's Point development as a whole .

"This is evidence the project is starting," Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell said after the news conference.

Mitchell said the project embodies Portland's best qualities -- its creative economy as well as its educational and entertainment offerings.

"From my perspective it doesn't get any better than this," he said.

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: @randybillings

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Additional Photos

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The Circus Conservatory of America chose Thompson's Point in Portland as home to its accredited degree program.


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