SPARK! Blog


Back To School Reading List

As kids are heading back to school we thought it was the perfect time to share our reading list for parents! The topic: Creativity of course! Because you’re never to old to start looking for inspiration. The best part is that all of these books are eligible for purchase through AmazonSmile. Which means Amazon will donate 5% of your purchase to us when you register SPARK! as your charity of choice. Learn more about AmazonSmile here. Happy reading!

  1. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
  2. Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  3. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  4. The Little Spark – 30 Ways To Ignite Your Creativity by Carrie Bloomston
  5. Creativity On Demand: How to Ignite and Sustain the Fire of Genius by Michael J. Gelb
  6. Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative by Scott Barry Kaufman
  7. Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Know of one we missed? Email us at info@sparkdallas.org and we’ll add it to the list!


Shoes & Stories

Wondering what our second annual Shoes & Stories event on August 14th is all about? Susan, who attended the inaugural event, shares what it was like to do a storytelling and sneaker decorating activity with her daughter.

What was the most memorable part about Shoes & Stories?

Watching my daughter and her friend figure out their “story” and then try to depict it on their shoes.

What was your daughter’s favorite part about the event?

>She loved the chance to be creative and decorate her shoes to reflect who she is… she also LOVED running around and playing at SPARK!

What did your daughter draw on her shoes and what was her inspiration?

She ended up just making an abstract design of her favorite colors and she LOVED them!

Were you surprised at all by her creation?

No, she is very creative and artistic and they ended up being a great representation of her.

Did the event bring you and your daughter closer?

I always think a unique experience that creates memories brings you closer.

Did you find it extra special that it was an all-girls event?

I think it was good that it was all-girls because I think it made it easier for them to be creative.

Would you recommend Shoes & Stories to your friends and why?

Absolutely! It is a fun, unique event that allows you to spend quality time with your child and create memories!

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Don’t miss out on this (girls only) creative experience for you and your daughter, niece or granddaughter! Tickets are $15 if you bring your own shoes; $25 if we supply them. Register here: sparkdallas.org/event/shoes-and-stories-2


Welcome Aboard: Jessica Tyler

SPARK! welcomes a new board member, Jessica Tyler who brings years of business and leadership experience to the table. Jessica is currently serving as Director of Planning, Execution and Compliance for the Cargo Division of American Airlines.

“From the moment I heard about the mission of SPARK! I knew I wanted to help the organization thrive,” said Jessica. “Creativity is a misunderstood word, often confused or equated with an output – a piece of art, a score of music, or a dance or theatre production. But to me, creativity means a mind that is open to possibilities. And, to develop a mind like that takes real experiences that empower people to think differently about their world in a way that enables them to shape the outcomes they seek. SPARK! is a place that will provide those types of experiences that children need to become their absolute best.”

Jessica leads teams who are responsible for the planning and execution of the strategic plan and leads the division’s audit team that focuses on ensuring the safety and wellbeing of cargo’s global operation. Her responsibilities currently include a major business process and technology transformational initiative that will impact the way the cargo division does business for decades to come. Prior to her role at American Airlines, Jessica was a Global Practice Leader for two of Gallup, Inc.’s largest consulting practices.

“We are very thankful to Jessica for joining our team and bringing her wide variety of knowledge to SPARK!” said SPARK! President & CEO Beverly Davis. “We couldn’t be more excited that she’s decided to use her creative business mind to help further our mission. I know she’ll make an impact on the organization as a whole and be a tremendous support as we continue to grow and create new revenue streams.”

Welcome aboard, Jessica!

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the SPARK! board, email info@sparkdallas.org or call 214-421-7727 for more information.


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.


Welcome Aboard: Chris Holland

We’re thrilled and delighted to welcome our newest board member, Chris Holland, who brings years and years of experience in both corporate and nonprofit finance.

Chris is currently the Chief Operating & Financial Officer for VolunteerNow. After a successful 40-year career in the for profit world, Chris decided to shift his energy and talents toward serving nonprofits and has spent the last five years with VolunteerNow. He previously spent almost 18 years as VP of Finance for Michael’s Stores and was part of one of the most significant turnarounds and growth stories in recent retail history.

“We are very thankful to Chris for joining our leadership team and bringing his vast financial savvy to SPARK!” said SPARK! President & CEO Beverly Davis. “We couldn’t be more thankful that he’s decided to share his knowledge with us. I know he’ll make an impact on the organization as a whole and be a tremendous adviser as we approach our capital campaign.”

Welcome aboard, Chris!

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the SPARK! board or advisory council, email info@sparkdallas.org for more information.


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.


Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program

After completing 35 hours of workforce readiness training, two participants of the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program have joined our staff for the summer. According to their website, the program aims to “introduce exemplary Dallas high school students to future careers, professional employment opportunities and valuable workplace skills while providing area companies, nonprofits and government entities a meaningful way to make an investment in the youth of Dallas and its future workforce.”

Each student is assigned an intern advisor through the program and is responsible for journaling about their experiences as well as completing numerous assignments throughout the summer. SPARK! is thrilled to participate in this program for the second year. Meet our two awesome interns Angie Gonzalez and Morgan Jones!

Angie Gonzalez, 16

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I am an amateur artist with a passion for monochrome paintings and have been studying art for five years. I plan to finish high school and attend Art Institute, to further my education in art studies and design. I then plan to teach high school art, while working on my reputation as a freelance artist. I love to teach and believe the best way to learn is through the creative process.

Morgan Jones, 16

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I attend W.W. Samuell Early College High School, and am on track to graduate high school with my Associates Degree in Applied Sciences from Eastfield College. After high school, I plan to attend Grambling State University for Sociology, then move on to Rice University do get a Masters Degree in Business Accounting.

I selected SPARK! for my summer internship because I have always liked arts and crafts, as well as doing my own creative things over the year. I also wanted to have the opportunity to get kids who weren’t already interested in the arts, and let them experience the importance of creativity firsthand. I share my passion of art through scrapbooking, and also taking and collecting polaroid pictures. 


Artist Spotlight: Lynn Raines

We’re so excited to welcome the newest member of the SPARK! team: Lynn Raines. After working as a SPARK! instructor for more than a year, Lynn started full-time this month to lead our summer camp programs.

Read on to learn how she’s taking charge of all creative curriculum and how she’s already used her own creativity to leave a mark on SPARK!

How’s it feel to be on board?

From the first day I peeked through the doors of SPARK! I was hooked. As an artist and a teacher, I am very excited about my full-time position as Programs Director AKA “Creative Guru.” My head is bursting with ideas of how to get kids experimenting with different materials and investigating new ideas at SPARK! and then taking those ideas home with them. I see SPARK! as a place for kids to become inspired and have opportunities to express their creativity though a variety of artistic adventures.

Describe what it’s like to work for SPARK!

It’s playful, inspiring and exciting. As a former art teacher I have experience coming up with ideas that engage and inspire kids. But at SPARK! I get to also teach the creative process – which is really rewarding. Once children start using the creative process they begin to understand how inventive they really are. I’ve watched their self-esteems rise as they see what they’re truly capable of. Not to mention that I get to see my own creations become a part of SPARK! That’s a major bonus for a practicing artist as myself!
Tell me about your latest installation at SPARK!
I was asked to come up with ways to incorporate a car wash into the Climb, Crawl, Slide Sculpture. I researched, went through few a car washes and eventually ended up at a scrap yard taking apart an ’86 Jaguar. The front end of the car can now be seen while exploring our space. I’m looking forward to adding more detail to the carwash installation including a stoplight and bubbles. I can’t wait to incorporate more interactive art pieces like this one into the SPARK! space.
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Create With Cocktails

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Create with Cocktails is back by popular demand! We’ve added three new dates for this pop-up event on our calendar. Not familiar with these adult-only shindigs? Here’s the lowdown.

What: Bring your creativity and climbing clothes and we’ll bring the beer and wine. Test your skills at silk-screening and help make items for the SPARK! gift shop + explore our 6,000-foot Climb, Crawl, Slide Sculpture. Want to leave your mark on the SPARK! environment? At this event, you’ll have the opportunity to add to a permanent installation. Light snacks are provided. Bring your coworkers or make it a girls night out!

When: Mark your calendars for one (or all) of these dates!

Thursday, July 14

Thursday, September 29

Thursday, December 1

Where: 1409 S. Lamar Street, Suite 004

Cost: $10 per person in advance or at the door.

Age: Strictly 21 and up

Why: Because as a non-profit we’re always looking for creative ways to raise money! Your $10 goes towards supporting creative programming for kids from low-income families.

Questions? Email our Marketing and Events Coordinator, Mollie Jamison at mjamison@sparkdallas.org.