Spark Central Grows Community Connection

community at unloved

If you know me personally, you know I’m passionate about community projects. I love when a cross-section of the community comes together to create something bigger than all of us—something that inspires people to dream big for themselves and their community. Such collaborative learning experiences build a sense of belonging and confidence, and also ignite important dialogue that benefits everyone.

There is a validation and an empowerment that comes from seeing your own work included in something that you know the rest of the community will see, hear, or discuss. It allows us to imagine and create a different reality than one in which we currently reside. 

Megan Cuilla, book project participant, shares their poem.

Megan Cuilla, book project participant, shares their poem.

For instance, in our community book projects (such as Unloved, in April 2017), adults and teens come together to learn and practice writing, then create a unique piece for inclusion in a creatively desinged book. I love seeing peoples’ faces light up when they hold their own published work in their hands. These book projects culminate in a community reading, which is a powerful experience of sharing and voice. Many participants have told me these projects are some of the most meaningful experiences they’ve had at Spark Central.

Another incredible project that invites the community to connect is West Central Dial-A-Story. This collaborative community project—designed by Spokane Arts, Laboratory Spokane, Spark Central, and the Spokane Civic Theatre—is designed to share real experiences about the West Central neighborhood. The project consists of three rotary phone booths installed in the West Central neighborhood at Batch Bakeshop, Indaba Coffee, and the West Central Community Center; each have a variety of stories to hear from real West Central residents and community members and performed by actors of the Spokane Civic Theatre. You can submit your own West Central story for inclusion in the project, too.

Our pilot edition written by Holmes Elementary fifth-graders

Our pilot edition written by Holmes Elementary fifth-graders

But the most rewarding experience so far this year for me was working with the fifth graders at Holmes Elementary on a newspaper for the neighborhood. In this pilot project (which we hope to test as an after-school program this fall), fifth-grade students became reporters in the West Central Publishing Union, a branch of our programs focused on promoting voice through publishing. Armed with a PRESS badge and coaching from Shawn Vestal of The Spokesman-Review, students brainstormed issues and stories in their school and neighborhood and began investigating and sharing their thoughts.

One of the teachers shared with me that some students skipped recess to work on their pieces—they were that charged about what they had to say. From ways to deal with ADHD in school to one students’ journey of coming to America, the students shared their voices, viewpoints, and experiences with the community. We printed enough copies of the paper for the entire school and have included a digital copy below so you can see their brilliant hard work.

Spark Central is more than place; we are a community of learners and creative aspirers. By bringing people together for inspiring community events and creative learning, Spark Central invites volunteers, residents, teachers, and students to learn from and inspire one another. We ignite a spark of inspiration and keep the fire going together.

Come join us.