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Sparks Gallery Revivifies San Diego's Art Scene

By Paul Rowe

Before Sonya Sparks opened Sparks Gallery in 2013, there was a tremendous need for a space for artists to display their work in San Diego's vibrant Gaslamp Quarter. Sparks Gallery is a gorgeous event space showcasing contemporary artwork from the visionary artists of Southern California. In 2017, Sparks Gallery was awarded the People in Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse from the Save Our Heritage Organization.

Historical preservation is crucial to Sparks Gallery, restored to a 1920s style while keeping with the industrially elegant design that would have suited the building's original purposes. The building itself, the Sterling Hardware Building, was built in 1924 and designated as a historic building in the early 1980s with the inception of the Gaslight Quarter.

From a young age, Sonya Sparks always wanted to be involved in the arts. Drawing, painting, and taking photographs played an active role in her childhood. After studying art at the University of San Diego, Sparks decided to major in Business Administration instead of art due to lack of hiring in San Diego's art scene back in the early 2000s. After immersing herself in eight years of international business and web development, Sparks eventually decided it was time to start something new.

"Sonya decided to combine her interest in art with her business background to start an art gallery that focused on the local art scene," Sparks Gallery Marketing Manager Jessica Amaya said.

Sparks Gallery determines the inclusion of artwork through a silent selection committee. If an artist shows talent or skill in execution and craftsmanship or conveys a message or story eliciting an emotion with depth and purpose, the work will be considered. If a particular piece contains illustrative and moving, but not disturbing imagery, and the artist's portfolio supports a common theme or message that defines their style, the artwork might also be considered. Currently, Sparks Gallery has celebrated San Diego's natural features.

"Our 'Edge of the Ocean' exhibition has over 30 Southern Californian artists whose work is inspired by the San Diego coast: capturing the feeling of the sand, water, wind, life, and the natural beauty of the shape & form of the edge of the ocean," Amaya said. "This marvelous exhibit features Stefanie Bales, who teaches Art and Design classes at Platt College (whose mixed-media paintings celebrate feminine serenity in seascapes and landscapes), and Sherry Krulle-Beaton, who holds an Environmental Design degree along with her art studies, whose work is representative of expressionist and abstracted elements of nature."

Sparks Gallery is a haven for emerging and established artists in Southern California, and Sparks owes some of its success to the dedicated members of her family.

"My family encouraged me to start my own business and I just jumped right into it without looking back. I decided to combine my interest in art with my business background to start an art gallery that focused on the local art scene," Sparks said. "My family also helped with the restoration and design of the space, and it has been a great family project to work on together."

Just as vastly different works of art adorn the walls to create a unique tapestry, Sparks, her family, and her collaborators have brought their various talents together to spark something special in the Gaslamp Quarter.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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