SPARC takes steps towards goals

Published 10:16 pm Monday, September 17, 2018

With new additions and official nonprofit status, the SPARC Initiative is ready to transform Suffolk.

Now that the initiative is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, SPARC has welcomed a board of directors and an advisory board. SPARC also brought in a new executive director, Carolyn Phillips, and a manager for the SPARC Shoppe, Pamela English.

“We expect the SPARC Initiative to become the body that oversees art in Suffolk and sees an art district come to Suffolk,” Phillips said.

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Ed Beardsley, SPARC founder, wanted it to be a charitable organization.

“When Ed thought of the SPARC Initiative, he wanted it to be a nonprofit and he filed the paperwork fairly early on,” Phillips said. “Nonprofits are seen as charitable, and that is SPARC’s intent.”

SPARC now has a 10-person board of directors and a four-person advisory board to help spread the mission of the organization and continue to grow.

“Now that we have those individuals in place, we can rely on their talent and expertise to move the organization forward,” Phillips said. “It’s good to get different perspectives. Many minds are better than one mind.”

Pamela English was also brought on board at the same time as Phillips, and she now manages the SPARC Shoppes.

Prior to English, volunteers staffed the shop.

“We had, and still have, a dedicated group of volunteers, but we needed someone to oversee the schedule, enact policy and spend time trying to attract new artists. Now Pam handles that for the shop,” Phillips said.

With positive changes coming to the SPARC Initiative, they are going to hit the ground running and start to achieve some of their goals.

“We have some immediate goals. Some of them are less glamorous than others. Those deal with strategic planning and recruiting, but we have more visual components,” Phillips said. “We want to use art to enhance and engage our community. People can expect more public art and more activities.”

Phillips also hopes to grow the organization’s marketing efforts so the community has a better idea of who they are and what they do.

More collaborations are also on the horizon for the SPARC Initiative, and the advisory board will be working to make those happen.

The long-term goal is to bring an arts district, like Virginia Beach has, to Suffolk, but the leaders want an arts district in Suffolk to be uniquely its own and not modeled after other cities.

“I think it’s less about the types of public art and more about the style and subject matter. Most arts districts have murals and public art sculptures, but we want to focus on the historic elements of Suffolk and pair it with contemporary art,” Phillips said.