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Sunday, September 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spark Central: Igniting creativity

Brooke Matson is the executive director of Spark Central, a non-profit creative space in the Kendall Yards development. At Spark Central, people of all ages can be creative, learn about technology (like the robot car she’s holding) and use the book collection, computer terminals and technology kits they can check out and take home. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Brooke Matson is the executive director of Spark Central, a non-profit creative space in the Kendall Yards development. At Spark Central, people of all ages can be creative, learn about technology (like the robot car she’s holding) and use the book collection, computer terminals and technology kits they can check out and take home. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spark Central strives to bring creative learning to West Central residents but also serves the wider Spokane community.

The center has a mission to fill the achievement gap for low-income residents, many who can’t afford extracurricular activities, said Brooke Matson, Spark Central’s executive director.

“We’re a nonprofit focused on igniting creativity and imagination,” Matson said. “We’re focused on breaking down barriers to creative learning opportunities and to help people to grow in their skill sets, especially for youth.”

Spark Central at 1214 W. Summit Parkway in Kendall Yards offers a wide schedule for kids and adults with community events, learning and programs ranging from technology to the arts.

Guests will find programs such as robotics, Adobe InDesign, computer coding, painting, making comic books and writers’ group. Many activities are free, because of donations, but some workshops require a low-cost fee.

It also hosts open-station hours, to check out robotic materials or make projects. Some scheduled programs can take walk-in guests, but others require registration. “Our workshops and programs fill up very quickly,” Matson said.

Here are five things to know about Spark Central:

1. What’s coming up? Check out its schedule at http://spark-central.org/events, including regular weekly options, but examples include Drop in and Write 5 p.m. May 8; reading by novelist and poet Laura Kasischke, 7:30 p.m. May 11; $15 workshop for Real-Time Graphic Club 9:30 a.m. May 19 to build a video game or interactive art piece; Drop in & Science 3 p.m. May 19 with experiments from the gross to the glorious.

2. What’s new at the center? Matson said innovation and change are constants at Spark Central. “That’s our norm to try new things; we’re constantly changing up and trying new workshops.” A current project is the West Central Express Newspaper produced by fifth- and sixth-graders at Holmes Elementary, to be distributed throughout the West Central neighborhood. Shawn Vestal, a staff writer with The Spokesman-Review, is a key volunteer.

3. Who is the target audience? All ages, with some emphasis on youth. A strong focus remains on the West Central neighborhood, “but we’re open to anyone,” Matson said. “We also started to do outreach at Holmes Elementary and specific sites in the West Central neighborhood.” A common question from audiences is whether Spark Central is an arts or tech organization. “We like to say we’re a creativity organization … real creative thinking uses all those elements, and in today’s world, all those intersect.” Youth in future jobs will need flexibility, creativity and a wide skill set, she said.

4. Is a certain skill level required? No, Matson said. “Because part of what we’re trying to do is break down that confidence fear. If you’ve never written poem before, still come to a poetry workshop. It’s the same if they come to our drawing drop in. Our staff is good at making people feel they can try something they’ve never done before and inspire creativity.”

5. What are Spark Central’s needs? Additional volunteers and enough donations to support staff top Matson’s list. Donations of tangible items, not so much. “We actually discourage donated items,” she said. “Our main need is support to grow our staffing. We have a big need for volunteers.” Volunteer needs include help with programs if you’re are comfortable with basic technology and support at the front desk for administrative tasks or checking out items.

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