SPARK! Events


Power of Collaboration

Blog Power of Collaboration

 

Dan M. Age 17, a local high school student – Came to recognize the power of collaboration during his internship at SPARK!   “My internship at SPARK! helped me become a better problem solver and team player. I used to try and do everything myself and now I collaborate with others.  Now I feel like I could either go on to be a fashion designer or a chemical engineer, I could be anything!”

 

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Crazy Art-World Marriage

From 1980 to 1986, renowned Pop artist Andy Warhol and a graffiti prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, collaborated on a number of exciting pieces that actually led them to the position they now have in the art world.

Their working process went on like this: Warhol usually painted first, and then Basquiat entered the scene with his colorful imagery. One of the most popular examples would be the piece titled Olympic Rings (shown below), completed in 1985. Warhol actually made several variations of the Olympic five-ring symbol, to which Basquiat responded with the oppositional graffiti style.

How did this “crazy art world marriage”, as Victor Bockris called it in his book, Warhol: The Biography, happen in the first place? It was due to the fame Andy Warhol had already achieved and the fact that Basquiat, a 20-year-old artist at the time, thought this fame was the missing piece which would help him with his big breakthrough in the art world. And he was right! Basquiat’s emotionally-charged paintings and graffiti art were about to become some of the best known Neo-Expressionist artworks in the U.S.

International Cooperation

The International Space Station (ISS) Program’s greatest accomplishment is as much a human achievement as it is a technological one—how best to plan, coordinate, and monitor the varied activities of the Program’s many organizations.

An international partnership of space agencies provides and operates the elements of the ISS. The principals are the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. The ISS has been the most politically complex space exploration program ever undertaken.

The International Space Station Program brings together international flight crews, multiple launch vehicles, globally distributed launch, operations, training, engineering, and development facilities; communications networks, and the international scientific research community.

These include construction facilities, launch support and processing facilities, mission operations support facilities, research and technology development facilities and communications facilities.

 

 

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Olympic Rings"


The Metamorphosis Project

 

 

SPARK! helps children metamorphose into their full creative potential.

This statement is the inspiration behind the beautiful butterfly mural Rolando Diaz painted on the front doors of SPARK!

There’s a vast body of research that has been conducted about the importance of developing creative thinking skills, or problem solving skills, in children.  The data shows that self-perception, a sense of inquiry and the fortitude to take risks or “try, try again” are developed through participation in creative activities and are needed for success.

Shortly after SPARK! opened its doors, we launched a research survey that we called “Metamorphosis.” The name was derived from our desire to see children metamorphose into their full creative potential.  The objective was to understand exactly how many exposures to SPARK! programming were needed to make a lasting impact on a child’s life. We truly appreciate the Moody Foundation and the Harold Simmons Foundation for funding this work.

Metamorphosis examined the steps of the creative process as defined by SPARK! – Inspiration, Collaboration, Iteration and Innovation. Dr. Magdelena Grohman of the University of Texas, Dallas, compiled a questionnaire tool for Metamorphosis by consolidating three survey stems into one comprehensive series. Students were given a pre- and post-instrument and were measured in two groups: short-term exposure – (students receiving one week of continuous creative programming) and long-term exposure (students receiving multiple engagements over one year).

The population for this study included children aged 10 – 17 from low-income homes in or near Dallas County, Texas.  Students were recruited for both test and control groups.

The short test group represented strength when looking at the notion of imagination. These students received a more intensive, hands-on application of the creative process.  Students in the short test group attended a 5-day, week-long camp and were immersed in both the SPARK! creative environment and programming in the creative process every day for one week.

Responsively, the long test group demonstrated consistent and steady improvement in students receiving programming.  Continued practice and participation yields greater results.

We also noted that students who received programming at SPARK! had a higher perception of their own creativity than students who did not receive the programming. Studies have shown that enhanced perception of creativity is known to bolster self-esteem and help students confidently navigate the process of Iteration, or trial and error.

Students who come from educational institutions with the focus on daily inquiry do indeed outperform their peers in the area of creative perception.  The chance to utilize critical thinking skills repeatedly and pursue passion projects offers the greatest opportunity to turn new skills into practiced and recognized habits.

The data gathered was reviewed and plotted by the Statistical and Analytics department at SMU and released to Dr. Andra Barton to write the abstract.  In summarizing the impact seen through the research, she wrote, “The need for intentional acts that aid in the development of creativity should be frequent and ongoing for youth.  SPARK! is a prominent forerunner in creative development for students.”  Her abstract went on to say, “The increase represents the need for teachers to be exposed to training methodologies that embrace the SPARK! creative process of: Inspiration, Collaboration, Iteration and Innovation.

Since the completion of the Metamorphosis study, SPARK! has developed plans to engage children in creative learning on an ongoing basis.  Currently under development are plans for after school and weekend engagements.

The SPARK! Creator Studio will combine the equipment of a Maker’s Space with the technology of a computer lab and the materials in a Tinker’s studio. Children will be able to access the studio throughout the year, after school and on weekends beginning this fall semester.

A music program is under development and will launch with a week-long camp this summer.  Children will experience percussion, gain an understanding of rhythm, explore singer/songwriter programs, as well have opportunities for jam sessions and open mic performances.  This, too, will be offered year-round.

While we’re not currently staffed to provide teacher training on a widespread basis, the SPARK! team piloted a program with the Mesquite School District in March 2018 to train teachers in teaching the creative process.

The Metamorphosis study provided us with insightful data. There is a strong need for ongoing creative learning. The programming at SPAK! will help students enhance their creative skills which will ultimately allow them to excel in school and compete in the workforce.


The Creative Process

At SPARK! we teach the creative process.  It’s a way of thinking. A problem-solving methodology.  We define the creative process as “Inspiration with iteration and collaboration leads to innovation.” We refer to these as our “Ations” of creativity and teach them to the kids.  

 

This way of thinking sharply contrasts with most public-school curriculum. Too many schools are teaching children to memorize facts. Too few are teaching them how to think.  SPARK! gives children the opportunity to try, miss the mark, try again and continue on this process until they are satisfied with their creation.

 

There is a giant swing at SPARK! that resembles a lion head-shaped door knocker. We use this installation to illustrate the creative process. On his travels through Europe, artist Rolando Diaz was inspired (Inspiration) by the very large lion head door knockers he saw on castles throughout the country.  When we decided that the alcove in the lower level of SPARK! needed a special installation, Ro recalled his travel memories and sketched his swing concept.  

 

Once the concept was approved, we approached Pascale Pryor, an artist who works in 3D sculptures, and asked her to translate the concept into a 3D piece (Collaboration).  Pascale provided a paper machete prototype that brought some of the lion’s facial features into focus. The machete was approved and sent with the drawing to the welding team of Byron Zarabbi and James Bauer (more Collaboration). Byron and James created a small-scale mock-up that really started to capture Ro’s vision.  The work was approved and the team installed the full-size lion head at SPARK! It was beautiful.  

 

As we compared the swing to Ro’s original drawing, we thought a little more work could be done to meet the vision of the lion’s wild mane (Iteration).  Another small-scale mock-up was created in which gold and copper curls were added. This began a circular process of Collaboration and Iteration as Pascale, Byron and James set about adding hair, painting eyes, sharpening fangs, adding whiskers and even modifying the design of the swing. After a few weeks, everyone stood back and admired the swing (Innovation) as it exists today.  A gorgeous work of art resulting from the efforts of a creative team.

 

Children are often amazed to learn that a team of four, “adult, professionals” went through several rounds of trial and error to get it just the way they wanted it.  Kids don’t typically have the opportunity to work on projects through the process of iteration. Our schools don’t allow for iteration or collaboration. SPARK! encourages these important steps to let children focus on the process of learning and thinking with less emphasis on the final product.

-Beverly Davis, CEO


Definition of Creativity

Creativity means different things to different audiences.  And it can be expressed in so many ways that is difficult to come up with a definition that suits everyone. Merriam Webster defines creativity as “the ability to create or the quality of being creative.” So much for not using the same word to define itself.

 

When we were shaping our mission in the early stages of SPARK! – to ignite the spark of creativity inherent in all children – we spent countless hours thinking how we would define creativity. I had researched the topic and the importance of igniting a child’s thinking both in and out of the context of formal education. I was adamant that our definition of creativity not be limited to artistic endeavor or even restricted to “The Arts.”  With STEM focus being so prevalent at that time (2011), It was necessary to make sure our definition included those areas of study. Our belief was, and sill is, that creativity is a more global approach to problem solving.

 

Our Programs Committee, comprised of teachers, a principal, an artist, business people and two individuals who run educational programs outside of schools’ standard curriculum, wrestled with this issue.

 

Here is the result of that deliberation:

Creativity – A sense of wonder that invites exploration and the discovery of new possibilities.

 

This definition starts with a mental process.  A sense of wonder is sparked by many things — a need, a problem, an opportunity, a request, an assignment, and even pure inspiration. It is aligned with the adage, “necessity is the mother of invention” and the ability to question how to do something better, cheaper and faster. Sometimes we see the work of others and that inspires us to question, “What if I did it this way?”

 

Entrepreneurs see an opportunity to make money by creating a product, service, or experience that others need or want. Their sense of wonder comes from a determination to deliver something others will purchase.  In school, teachers give assignments designed to ignite that sense of wonder.

 

Exploration is the actual process of the creative mind. It involves research, production, modification, collaboration, iteration, and trial, to reach a desired result. This aspect of the definition applies to works of art, scientific discoveries, the creation of new products, and more.  

 

Sir James Dyson recalls that he had 5,126 failures, or iterations, until he eventually created the world’s best-selling vacuum cleaner. 

 

The discovery of new possibilities happens throughout the process and is often the culmination of this process.

 

At SPARK! we teach children that creativity is a process that drives us toward a goal.  


The SPARK! Internship Experience

The SPARK! Internship Experience

            Most people who have been to SPARK! can attest to the fact that while it is a tough place to find, it is a great place to be! Which is exactly how I felt my first week on the job as the Marketing & Events intern at SPARK! for the fall of 2017. When I walked through the butterfly doors for the first time I was totally blown away. The SPARK! environment changed my entire perspective on what it means to be creative!

Over the course of the semester I spent the majority of my days at SPARK! working on a list of assignments and tasks given to me by my awesome supervisor, and the Marketing & Event Manager, Darlene Schneider. These lists always included the up-keep and updating of our social media accounts, specifically focused on Instagram. Our goal was to get to 1,200 followers by the end of the year… although, we have come a long way, we are just about 100 away from our goal- but confident we will reach it by January 1!  (Help us reach that goal and find us on Instagram @spark_dallas)

                                    

            Another substantial part of my internship was spent learning and creating on Adobe InDesign software. Keep in mind, that when I began this journey I had barely even heard of what InDesign was, so it is safe to say I was a beginner. However, now as my internship is coming to a close I can confidently say that I feel proficient in InDesign and even get excited when I get to make a new creation! I used InDesign mainly to make various marketing materials such as fliers, Facebook cover photos, banners for the SPARK! website, and signs that are used to advertise upcoming events or announcements. Additionally, I recently used InDesign to show off my new skills to my parents by designing our family Christmas card… it was a huge hit.

I think my favorite part of my job as an intern was getting to help with the launch of the SPARK! Street Team! Although, it is still being developed and expanded it was honestly the most fun I have ever had at work while still working. The Street Team consists of two people who go out on the SPARK! Segways and ride all around downtown passing out fliers and free family passes with hopes to expand reach and create awareness about SPARK! in the community. They get a lot of attention, are easy to use and so much fun! (Want to join the Street Team?! Email events@sparkdallas.org and tell them Haley sent ya!)

                            

            Lastly, I think it is important to mention the two big events that I helped with during my time at SPARK! both of which were successful and a great learning experience for me. Whimsy was the first event, it was private with more than 400 people invited to take part in a magical experience from stilt walkers, hidden Alice-in-Wonderland inspired tea parties to story tellers and live painters. During the set-up and actual event my main role as the Marketing & Event Intern was to manage and coordinate the volunteers. It was a big job, but was also great because not only was I hands-on with the activities and the physical set up of the event but I also got to be hands-on with the people. I met and spent time with a lot of the part-time staff and regular volunteers, who are amazing and an integral part of the SPARK! community. I learned so much from them and appreciated all of their help and encouragement throughout that event! (Want to be a volunteer and help with events like this one? Sign up here: http://sparkdallas.org/volunteer/)

Another awesome event during my internship was Passport to SPARK! The annual silent auction is the nonprofits biggest fundraiser. I learned a lot through this event in a different way than I learned through Whimsy. Passport to SPARK! was an in-house event and therefore, I got to have my hands on some of the marketing and promotional materials as well as helped recruit items for the silent auction- which is not as easy as it sounds! Events like that are always fun and exciting to attend but seeing the other side of it was an eye-opening and enriching experience.

I feel as if I can confidently say that I have gotten great exposure to the process and hard work that goes into event planning, preparation and execution of both big and small events. Whether it was for a silent auction or just a guest artist pop-up on the weekend, I have gotten a thorough experience and exposure of the trials… and tribulations… of events! Events are also easier when you are passionate about the people and cause you work for, which radiates from everyone at SPARK! no matter if you are a part-time weekend staff member or full-time manager. (Find out more about open positions at SPARK! here: http://sparkdallas.org/join-our-team/)

The SPARK! family has been an amazing team to work with and learn from over the past four months. I’ve made friendships and memories that will stay with me forever. I’ve had the opportunity to see how important the SPARK! mission of igniting the spark of creativity inherent in all children is and how it really can make an impact on children. The smile on a child’s face when they are at SPARK! is priceless…you will have to come in and see it for yourself!

Signing off for now!

– Haley Berling


Kevin Hurst Of Neiman Marcus Talks Student Creativity Showcase

SPARK! has partnered with Neiman Marcus and Fossil to host the Student Creativity Showcase for kids in second grade through high school. We spoke with Kevin Hurst, Director of Charitable Giving and Volunteerism at Neiman Marcus, about the importance of creativity and the benefits of participating in the Showcase.

Why is it important for kids to have ways to express their creativity?
Research shows that students who identify as creative tend to graduate at higher rates, score higher on the SAT, become more engaged civic leaders and are more creative problem solvers.  In this day and age, we all face obstacles.  Having the skill set to creatively resolve issues will provide a tremendous advantage for them as they navigate through school and their careers.

How will children benefit from participating in the Student Creativity Showcase?
This is a new and exciting opportunity for students to showcase their interests and creativity with their peers across DFW.  They are being asked to express their interpretation of creativity in a truly artistic fashion.  Normally, “the arts” are limited to one or two genres.  The Showcase has four main categories for them to submit and compete in by age group.  What I like about this is that there is room for collaboration.  One student, for example, may sing a song, another may dance, and a third may combine the singing and dancing to create a music video – imagine how cool that could be!  Of course each category and age group winner will receive an award and bragging rights.  The “Best of Show” winner has the opportunity to have an experience with a professional in their field of interest. Talk about a truly unique hands-on learning experience.  I only wish I had this opportunity at that age.

Why is creativity important at Neiman Marcus?
Among some of the Neiman Marcus core organizational values are to “be memorable”, “be bold” and “be the best.” Without creativity you are limited to the possibilities of providing the ultimate customer experience.

What do you look forward to most about the Student Creativity Showcase?
For me personally, I enjoy the visual and performing arts, so I am anxious to see those submissions.  You never know, the Showcase may discover the next creative genius and superstar. What is great about the timing of the contest is that it concludes during World Creativity and Innovation Week which includes the Creativity Confab at SPARK!  The Confab itself always has an interesting group of panelist and I always learn something new.

Besides being a sponsor, how else is Neiman Marcus involved in the Student Creativity Showcase?
Neiman Marcus has so many talented associates, so we will have key people playing a role in the judging of the submissions.


Second Annual SPARK! Halloween Spooktacular

Our second-annual SPARK! Halloween Spooktacular is back from 10am-4pm on Saturday, October 29. Tickets are $8 per person in advance or $10 at the door. (Yes, candy IS included!) Get your tickets here and check out a breakdown of the our themed games and activities:
Witch Golf
Use your magic broomstick to launch the Wiffle balls into the witches mouth.
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Monster Bowling
Roll the rubber ball towards two-liter bottles disgusted as scary creatures.
Ghostly Bean Bag Toss
Test your aim as you toss bean bags into the mouths of large jack-o-lanterns and ghosts.
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Witch Hat Ring Toss
See how many times it takes you to land a ring on the witch’s hat in our most challenging game of them all.
If You Dare
Stick your hand in boxes to feel slimy brains, eyeballs and other gross goodies. Or maybe it’s just spaghetti?
Spider Lollipops
Lollipops have never been creepier. Use pipe cleaners to make the legs and a lollipop for the body of your yummy insect.
Decorate A Trick-Or-Treat Bag
Stop by and and get creative when you decorate your own trick-or-treat bag.
Freaky Photo
Stop by our photo booth and snap pictures with dozens of Halloween-themed props.
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A big thanks to Vizient, Inc. for helping us prep for the event!