There are very few people who didn’t hear about, collect, or paint rocks this past summer during the local craze “Columbus Georgia Rocks,” but if you were living under a rock during this time, the movement brought people, over 24,000 of them, of all ages and backgrounds together, painting rocks and hiding them for one another to find throughout town. So, who was behind the local phenomenon? SPARK Art!
“Smiley” Rachel White and Stevie Hodge are the co-founders of SPARK Art, a local non-profit that will soon receive a federal 5013c non-profit status. SPARK Art goes into the community and organizes different pop-up art studios at events, after-school programs, nursing homes and summer camps.
“Anywhere art is needed, we’re there,” says Smiley. “Our goal is to spread kindness through art, and make art available to everyone.” she continues, “So far we’ve gone to 105 different events in the area.”
SPARK just hit their two-year anniversary. It was created after a good friend of Smiley’s, who was also an amazing artist, had to leave the Columbus area for a bigger city, unable to make a living here as an artist.
“We were trying to come up with a way to change the appreciation of art in Columbus, so people who are artists in Columbus can make a living here. We decided people must experience art to gain an appreciation, which means we need to make art available to everyone.” Smiley explains. As a non-profit, SPARK Art relies on volunteers and donations. SPARK Art attends events and organizes activities for free, but asks for assistance with supplies.
By sparking a passion for art, SPARK Art is changing the community. The kindness can be seen at each of the events, with people making new friends over a common bond, enjoying their creations. For 2018, Smiley and Stevie are reigniting the flame, bringing some new art across the river:
“In Phenix City there is a piece of land that’s a green space… it’s going to be an art park that we’re gonna be able to use as an ongoing project with phases of creations. The groundbreaking is planned for April.” They’re also collaborating with local artists to create a coloring book, sponsored by PTAP.
But don’t worry, the rocks aren’t going anywhere. “Columbus GA Rocks is an ongoing project as long as there is an interest,” said Smiley. As are some of SPARK’s other projects, like the Spread Kindness project, where volunteers leave inspirational notes throughout town.
SPARK Art’s first project from 2015 will be hitting the streets again soon, too. As a way to help local artists gain exposure, SPARK transformed a gumball machine and filled it with capsules containing tiny pieces of art. This machine pops up throughout town offering pieces for 50¢. So far the machine has had 37 pop-ups and sold 1856 capsules. It’s currently being refilled with new pieces.
Smiley hopes as time progresses, the appreciation for art in Columbus will grow, “we can see a change in our community, we’re hoping it’ll just get bigger and better with time.” Smiley also dreams of SPARK expanding as time goes by, hopefully acquiring a SPARK Art van so SPARK can bring more to the Chattahoochee Valley.
How can you help? Donate or volunteer. Donate via Paypal.me/SPARKGA or through Facebook. Get started with volunteering by emailing SPARKart360@Gmail.com. For more information on SPARK Art events, check out their Facebook.
SPARK art will be at our free Kids Camp & Summer Fun Fair on Sunday, March 4th at the National Infantry Museum to help guests create a superhero mask.
photos provided by Spark Art