Spark

Spark, a co-production of KQED Public Television and theBay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), is a three-part initiative in the arts that combines a weekly television series, an extensive Web site, and a multi-faceted educational outreach component. In its first season, Spark blazed a trail through the diverse and prolific Bay Area arts community, airing in-depth profiles of 52 local artists and arts organizations, and featuring hundreds of additional subjects in short segments and calendar items.

At a time of economic uncertainty, when many artists and arts organizations are struggling to survive, Spark’s first season on the air encouraged increased awareness and participation in the arts, delivering new audiences into studios, galleries, museums, and concert halls. Artists and organizations featured on Spark reported increases in audience size, ticket sales, and traffic to their Web sites, along with greater overall name recognition.

On the heels of its successful first season, Spark will premiere a 26-episode second season on Wednesday, January 7, at 7:30PM. Spark airs every Wednesday at 7:30PM on KQED Public Television 9 and repeats Fridays at 11:00PM. Subscribers to Comcast’s digital cable service also can enjoy the series at numerous additional times throughout the week (please visit kqed.org/dtv for updated digital cable schedules). In its first season, approximately 100,000 viewers tuned in to Spark each week, and that audience is projected to grow steadily over the program’s second season.

“The show has racked up impressive viewer ratings,” says Barry Hessenius, Director of the California Arts Council, “and helped to create a greater awareness in the public’s consciousness of the breadth and value of the arts.” Spark also has received many accolades from viewers and from members of the arts community, who appreciate its intimate, accessible style and diverse range of subjects. “There’s always something that piques my interest,” says William Cognill, a regular viewer and amateur artist. “I was art-deficient until Spark came around.”

Spark’s new episodes will feature nationally known artists, including choreographer Mark Morris, as he debuts his first full-length work with the San Francisco Ballet, and hip hop provocateur Michael Franti. Spark will go backstage with artists such as Marin Theater Company and performer and social scientist Rhodessa Jones; and will take viewers inside the studios of local artists like ceramicist Viola Frey and art and technology guru Ken Goldberg. Story subjects hail from every corner of the Bay Area, from Native American basket weaver Julia Parker in Yosemite Valley to conceptual art pioneer David Ireland in San Francisco’s Mission District.

This year, Spark will also explore the Bay Area’s role as a crossroads in the international art scene, featuring artists of many diverse cultures and subcultures. These include shadow puppet master Larry Reed, who has been practicing this traditional Balinese art form for more than 30 years; dance artist Ledoh, who is putting his own unique mark on the emerging art of butoh; and the hip hop artists, all Muslim women, who call themselves Calligraphy of Thought.

“Our first season proved that viewers are excited to learn about arts in the Bay Area — and they want to take the next step and attend the performances or exhibits that they learned about on Spark,” said series producer Pam Rorke Levy. “In our second season, we are proud to continue supporting our local arts community at such a pivotal time for artists and arts organizations.”

Spark has awakened people to the artworks that originate right next door and has created a bridge between communities,” said BAVC’s executive director, Judy Holme Agnew. “The Bay Area is such a rich tapestry of fine and performing arts, and we’re thrilled to champion the work of local artists across Northern California and internationally.”

Spark Online* Attracting an International Audience to Bay Area Arts
The Spark Web sitekqed.org/spark, a comprehensive Bay Area arts site that provides unique content in addition to supplementing the television program, is visited by over 3,000 unique visitors each month, with traffic increasing an average of 11 percent with each broadcast. Surprising even its producers, the Spark Web site has attracted an international audience to Bay Area arts and artists. International traffic to the Spark Web site has grown to almost 20 percent of the site’s visitors, suggesting an increased international awareness of the local arts scene. Because of the site’s ability to stream segments of the television program in their entirety, the reach of Spark is extended far beyond the Bay Area.

Special features of the Web site include: “Event Picks,” highlighting local arts events; “Secrets,” offering information and little-known resources about the local arts scene; and a weekly opportunity to learn more about art and win prizes through the “Sparkler Challenge.”

SparkEd* Training Hundreds of Bay Area Teachers to Use Spark in Their Classrooms
At a time when funding for arts education is steadily dwindling, SparkEdSpark’sinnovative educational outreach component, extends the benefits of this unique television series into the classroom, bringing world-class artists and the creative process directly to students and teachers. During Spark’s first season, SparkEd conducted 18 teacher training workshops for 466 Bay Area teachers, providing them with information, resources, tools and techniques designed to engage educators and students in active, hands-on learning and exploratory activities. SparkEd is comprised of KQED staff, arts educators, artists, and a partnership with The California Arts Project.

Also in its first year, SparkEd provided free online educator guides for 26 stories featured on Spark, downloadable at kqed.org/spark/education. As of October 2003, just six months into the first season of Spark, over 7,500 guides were downloaded. SparkEd will continue outreach to Bay Area teachers in season two of the program with 26 brand-new teacher’s guides and a new series of teacher’s workshops.

An evaluation of SparkEd is also under way as part of KQED Education Network’s continuing commitment to quality community outreach. The evaluation will provide data about how K-12 and pre-service teachers in the Bay Area view the SparkEd resources and use them in their teaching. All SparkEd materials and workshops support student accomplishment of the recently mandated California state education standards for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Major support for Spark is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, the Koret Foundation and the KQED Campaign for the Future Program Venture Fund. Additional support is provided by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the George Frederick Jewett Foundation, the Levi Strauss Foundation, the MacNaughton Family Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Deborah and Andy Rappaport, The San Francisco Foundation, TomKat and Diane B. Wilsey.

KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation’s most-watched public television station, and Digital Television 9, Northern California’s only public television digital signal;KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation; theKQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents and media professionals through workshops, seminars and resources; andkqed.org, which harnesses the power of the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.

The Bay Area Video Coalition is the nation’s largest noncommercial media arts center dedicated to providing access to media, education and technology. BAVC is a production facility, an affordable training center, a pioneer in technology-based workforce development and a critical resource for independent filmmakers.

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