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See sPARKs in action!

Thursday Night Pitches

Who Participated?

Participants included representatives from across the San Diego cultural community and brought diverse skills—from education to design to marketing to technology. 30 people representing over 16 institutions participated in the sPARKs lab on Friday, March 17. An additional 17 people from more than 5 additional institutions participated in the sPARKs reception on Thursday, March 18.

Participating institutions include:

  • Balboa Park Central
  • Balboa Park Cultural Partnership
  • Balboa Park Online Collaborative*
  • California Ballet Company
  • California Center for the Arts
  • Coronado Historical Association
  • Experienceology*
  • Mingei International Museum*
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
  • San Diego Automotive Museum
  • San Diego Civic Youth Ballet
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • San Diego Youth Symphony & Conservatory
  • San Diego Zoo Global
  • Spreckels Organ Society*
  • The PGK Project
  • The Old Globe*
  • U.S.S. Midway Museum

*Institution represented at Thursday evening sPARKs reception

What is sPARKs?

Nina Simon joined the Balboa Park Learning Institute to present sPARKs -- a dynamic 24-hour learning event for arts, science, and cultural professionals to explore ambitious ideas for their institutions while working together in a collaborative, creative environment in Balboa Park. The inaugural sPARKs event focused on new strategies for audience engagement, which built upon the momentum from the 2010 Smith Leadership Symposium, “Motivation, Interactions, and Impact: Exploring Audience Experience.”

sPARKs groups explored these wild ideas:

  • 365 Days of Music in Balboa Park
  • Interactive Sculptures that Incorporate Art, Science and Math
  • Human Ark-ive Exhibition: Visitors as Specimen & Curators
  • Reinventing the San Diego Children's Zoo
  • Incorporating Dance & Movement into Cultural Institutions
  • Explore Identity with Participatory Experiences

*The 5-minute videos below are presented in the same order as the wild ideas in this list.

Friday Audience Engagement Lab

What People Are Saying!

“sPARKs was refreshing and inspiring.”

"Thank you for organizing and hosting a truly productive and interactive workshop. It was wonderful to get the creative input of colleagues and to learn about the wonderful projects underway or envisioned. Thank you for providing the environment, structure and thoughtful questions and prompts to make this happen.”

"It’s energizing to be part of an event in which we are all working together."

“The sPARKs workshop was the perfect launching point as we begin to explore new ideas for our Children's Zoo. Each of the team members assigned to the Zoo group were smart, creative, and insightful. I brought back some good information to share with others working on the project. I look forward to many more BPLI learning adventures.”

"It’s been great to learn from a group of talented individuals."


sPARKs was made possible by the generous support of The Parker Foundation and the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS).

The Balboa Park Cultural Partnership serves as the collaborative body and collective voice for 28 arts, science, and cultural institutions in Balboa Park. Together we achieve greater effectiveness, innovation, and excellence and contribute to the vitality and sustainability of Balboa Park. Our collective 500 trustees, 7,000 volunteers, and 3,500 staff serve more than 6.2 million visitors annually.