A SPARK! of Innovation

Success Stories from Current or Former SPARK! Innovators


My SPARK! and Neiman Marcus Student Creativity Mentorship

By Hannah Selders

Written by “Best in Show” winner Hannah Selders from the 2018 Student Creativity Showcase

Being a part of SPARK! has been such an amazing experience. It has allowed me to spread my creative wings in so many directions. I have been able to network with designers and business owners, create new jewelry, and even participate as a panelist in the 4th annual SPARK! Creativity Confab. I have been shown and exposed to so much through my relationship with the SPARK! family.

After entering and winning first place in the SPARK! & Neiman Marcus Student Creativity Showcase, I was given the opportunity to go to Neiman Marcus and spend the day shadowing two amazing Intimate Apparel Designers; Jennifer Ogden and Michelle Gill, along with the Director of Charitable Giving & Corporate Public Relations, Kevin Hurst. Throughout the day I was able to meet private label designers, website managers, and Neiman Marcus clothing and accessory designers.

 The first meeting I attended was for Robin Wright’s pajama line “Pour Les Femmes”. During the meeting I learned that this clothing line was created for the women in Congo who have unimaginable struggles, and by creating pajamas as a symbol of comfort the money from buyers goes to help the women in Congo.  After that meeting, I sat in on a smaller session with Michelle and her co-worker Lisa. In this session they walked me through the 2020 Cashmere Collection and gave me the chance to learn how to apply colors and materials with math and weather to get the perfect clothing for each season. I also learned how to make a vision board using social media and other materials that are always around me. My last meeting was with Ella, one of the managers of the Neiman Marcus website. She walked me through the process of controlling and maintaining what every customer sees. From marking down prices to removing items that don’t catch the buyers’ eye, to choosing the perfect picture to send out in a catalog email.

After spending the day with all these wonderful people I was able to join Kevin, Michelle, and Jennifer in conversation over lunch. During this time we talked about school, got to know more about one another, and also discussed how we could apply all of our creative ideas to our personal lives. Neiman Marcus made me feel very welcome and because of my visit I can truly say that my interest in studying Fashion Marketing is confirmed, and I will bring everything that I have learned from my time with SPARK! and Neiman Marcus with me on my journey.

Thank you all so much, and I will never forget this experience.

-Hannah Niara

Hannah, pictured at Neiman Marcus with Apparel Designers
Jennifer Ogden and Michelle Gill

The Arts, Humanities and Health

The Arts, Humanities and Health

By guest blogger, Dennis Kratz

I started to write something about the importance of ongoing efforts to integrate engagement with the arts into the education of future and practicing physicians. Then last week I had the opportunity over several days to observe physicians, nurses and other healing performers at work in a hospital. I saw injections given, medications administered, smiles, expressions of concern, and more readings of blood pressure and other physical functions than I could count. I heard questions to patients about how they felt emotionally as well as physically; kind Wordsworth patients from nurses, physicians, technicians, and fellow patients; a few diagnoses; dreams of future medical advanced; and conversations about valuing family, changing behaviors, and celebrating the return to health. My original subject, in retrospect, struck me as incomplete, as is the attitude that the arts -like the humanities – at best only complement the science of medicine.

I have come to believe that we should educate future physicians to approach the practice of medicine as the harmonizing of three powerful forces, each vital but ultimately incomplete without the others. Science is self-evidently not only essential but also irreplaceable as the guide to attain, recover and maintain good health. The arts and humanities, however, are equally essential to the health of individuals and communities. They are more than an accompaniment or an assistant to the healing process. They should play a role, hand in hand with scientific knowledge, in how we not only go about healing but also what we mean by “health.” Science refers specifically to the disciplined search to understand and explain the physical processes at work in the world. Art emerges from the innately human desire to make our experience “special.” Engagement with the arts – as creator and responder – hones our ability to imagine the “what could be” lurking behind “what is.” Among the best artistic expressions of artful thinking that I know is Rene Magritte’s painting “Clairvoyance,” often also known as “Perspicacity.” [My ideas about the nature of art are strongly influenced by the writings of the anthropologist Ellen Dissenayaki.] The Humanities study the processes by which we fill our need to find and express meaning in life. They enlarge the ethical and cultural contexts within which we assess the value of our actions.

Health, like every scientific theory or artistic creation (the list could go on an all) is partial and provisional – always susceptible to change thanks to new evidence or new perspectives. Health is more than a temporary biological condition like the absence of disease or the lack of obvious symptoms of sickness. What are the positive characteristics of a truly healthy person, community, nation or world? It is a question that physicians, philosophers and artists have long pondered. The philosopher Georges Canguilhem suggested that the essential characteristics of a healthy organism include the ability to respond to environmental change and adapt to new situations. He also suggested that energy, and a confident sense of adventure, are components of real health. I really like that image of health. I saw reflections of this more embracing concept at that hospital. Science and medicines alone can take us to the first stage of health – a biological system working as it should. Advertisements from pharmaceutical companies to the contrary, it can’t produce deep happiness or a meaningful existence. That requires the thinking, imagining and empathy enhanced by the arts and humanities. We should integrate these profound complementary forces of understanding – science, art, Humanities – into the education of physicians because we should integrate them into the education of everyone if we want to foster a truly healthy society. I would like to see the power of science enlarged by imagination and humanized by genuine respect for the welfare of others that I witnessed last week on display everywhere and every day throughout our society.


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.


Student Installations @ SPARK!

Mallory’s Gold Award project at SPARK! is complete! We’re excited to celebrate this Girl Scout’s success. Take a look at what she learned about the creative process on her journey to its completion. For a complete project overview, see this previous blog post.

We’re so grateful for kids like Mallory, who work to make the community a better, more creative place. She is only the first of many students that SPARK! plans to work with on installations in our space. In fact, applications are currently being accepted for the Creative Installation Competition. Details are as follows.

Open to:

  • High School Students
  • College Students
  • General Public

Competition Launch – October 5th – All those interested in competing are invited to visit SPARK! from 4:30-6:30 and will be given a spec sheet on the competition with insights as to what SPARK! is seeking. The opportunity to tour the facility will be a huge asset in designing your submission. Spec sheets will be available at the SPARK! office from October 3, 2016 through October 21st . Unscheduled tours will not be offered, but SPARK! is open to the public every Saturday between 10-4 and you are welcome to use this time to scope out your installation site and brainstorm your project. (Admission fee required.)

For more information on the competition, click here, or contact Community Engagement Manager Lori Carey at lcarey@sparkdallas.org.


NTGD: Success Story #1

The countdown to North Texas Giving Day begins! We’re sharing one success story a week until September 22 to show the impact of our programming. In this story, one student from Communities in Schools shares how proud she was to see her work on display at SPARK! Every $25 donation goes towards materials to make projects like these possible. PLUS, donations of $25 or more made through the NTGD website are eligible for bonus funds and prizes from Communities Foundation of Texas!

A Successful Second Visit

In April of 2015 we celebrated World Creativity and Innovation Week and invited 24 students from Communities in Schools to experience creative immersion during the first-ever SPARK! field trip. These students practiced recycled art by designing and painting hubcaps to be installed on our wavy bridge. SPARK! opened the week of June 9 and that week, two of these students and one teacher visited SPARK! for a second time. One young lady found the hubcap she painted on her first visit hanging from our bridge and quickly showed-off her creation to her friends. She was so proud to see her hubcap displayed and to know that something she created was valued. She shared her pride and joy with SPARK! Staff, quoting: “It’s really amazing to know that a hubcap can be made into art and that my experience … could be so great.” Take a look at the young lady’s reaction.

After witnessing the uptick in this young lady’s self-definition as creative during her second visit, the Metamorphosis Project idea was sparked!

The exercise of figuring out how to decorate a hubcap will lead to deeper and stronger problem-solving skills as she matures and this boost to her self-esteem will help build her confidence. The perceived risk-taking of exploring the SPARK! environment and exercising her creativity provide positive reinforcement that she’ll apply to her next growth opportunity. Repeat visits to SPARK! will continue to build self-esteem, develop problem-solving skills and produce the types of experiences that lead to more successful academic performance and stronger career possibilities. Stay tuned for next week’s story!

 

 


Girl Scout Gold Award At SPARK!

Sixteen-year-old Mallory Rasco is working towards earning the highest achievement in Girl Scouts: the Gold Award. This seven-step project aims to impact the community in a big way. Lucky for us, Mallory has chosen to make an impact on SPARK! We can’t wait any longer to share her plans for a permanent installation in our creative environment. Read on to learn how she is transforming one long, dark tunnel into an out-of-this-world adventure.

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What was your source of inspiration for this project?

At the beginning, I was mainly thinking of big environments that would be interesting for kids to explore. That was when I initially thought of space, but then when I started thinking of cool details and activities to be in the tunnel, I used more of my personal knowledge. I’ve always enjoyed star gazing and Astronomy. I went to a weeklong Girl Scout Camp where I studied the stars, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I used all that I’ve learned to make the tunnel interesting and exciting for people to explore. So in total, my inspiration drew from my personal experience with studying the field and what I have enjoyed from my adventures.

What are some exciting elements of the project that we can expect to see?

Throughout the tunnel, it will look like a spaceship. There will be a control panel where kids can feel like they’re flying through space. I’m excited for this because I have been able to acquire actual pilot seats from Southwest Airlines to use for my project, so it will feel more genuine. And, at the end of the tunnel, I’ve designed it so it will look like the kids are floating in outer space, with constellations and stars and planets. Everything in there will be for kids to play with and enjoy themselves.

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From start to finish, how long do you expect to be working on this project?

I really started moving on this project at the beginning of June when I started thinking of the details in the tunnel. I am hoping to be done with most of the construction by the end of July. Then, I will finish up any last details and work on the paperwork for the Girl Scout Council in the first half of August, right before school starts. So, the entire project will last about two and a half months, basically all of summer.

What does earning the Gold Award mean to you?

Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award means the world to me. I have been a Girl Scout for eleven years, and everything has led up to this. I have already earned my Bronze and Silver Awards; to receive the Gold and finish the journey would give me the most amazing feeling. I will feel so satisfied with all the work I have done and the difference I can make for the kids.

Tell me why you chose to do your project at SPARK!

The first time I came to SPARK! I learned all about their message and goal. This is what told me that I needed to do my project here. I love everything that SPARK! promotes such as creativity and confidence. All of this is so important for children to hear, so that when they grow up, they can make a change in the world that we need.

How do you think this project will impact the community?

I hope that my project will impact children most of all. I want them to see how I brought something from my imagination to real life. I hope it will inspire higher confidence in themselves and their decisions when they design something or think of a different way to complete a task. It will teach them that if they work hard enough they can accomplish anything.

If you’d like to donate supplies to help Mallory with her project, check out her list of needs here.


Success Story: Camellia Gets Creative With Clay

At SPARK! we measure the success of a student’s visit in two ways:

  1. Did we help increase their self-definition as a creative individual?
  2. Did they begin to understand and use the creative process as we define it? (Inspiration with Iteration and Collaboration leads to Innovation.)

During her second consecutive week in our summer camp program, Camellia (or Cam), took another shot at sculpting. We are so thrilled to hear about her new understanding of creativity because of it. Here’s her story.

Name: Camellia

Age: 13

What school do you go to? J.L. Long Middle School

What sort of creative activities do you do at school? I’m not in art class anymore. The only creative thing I do is doodle on the sides of my papers.

Do you wish there were more opportunities to be creative at school? Yes. I’d like to work more with clay since I don’t buy it and I don’t have a kiln or any tools.Summer-Camp-Success-Story2

Tell me about your experience with sculpting clay at SPARK! for a second time this week. I did a wolf head. Ms. Raines gave me tools that helped me make the fur. I didn’t know I had to hollow things out. I like sculpting now because it is satisfying to do whatever you want with it and see at the end how beautiful it is. Clay is fun to use because it’s squishy.

Do you think it’s important to try things twice? Yes. I went all out the second time and did something I wanted to do instead. I finished in two days. It took some patience.

Did you improve? Yes.

How did you use iteration during your second sculpting experience? When I was doing the snout I noticed it was too long so I had to cut off different parts to see if it looked normal. The ears were hard because I had to put the back of them on first and then the curving inside. One ear looked kind of weird. I didn’t know if I should leave a part of it missing. I eventually made it look like it was cut off a little bit half way down. I definitely had a problem with the eyes. I couldn’t figure out how to do it with them open so I decided to do it with them closed. For the mouth, I just did lines to signify where it was. I wanted jowls to look more obvious so I had to add more clay to it.

Summer-Camp-Success-Story1Are you proud of yourself after seeing the final product? Yes. It looks better than what I thought it would. It does at least look like some sort of dog. Not a cat or anything. The fur actually looks like fur not just clay and triangles. It looks like a wolf.

Did you consider yourself creative before you came to SPARK! for camp? Yes.

At SPARK! we try to help kids understand that creativity isn’t just fine arts. Do you feel like you have a better sense of that now? I still identify creativity with art but now I see how it can relate to other things such as writing, ideas and stories.

What’s the most important thing about being creative? The most important thing is being able to do what you want. Putting whatever you think of onto paper.