Spark Live: Regarding Mac events and working together

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Last Friday, I attended Spark Live and watched some amazing performances. Spark Live is an opportunity for all sorts of artists to come together and share their work in front of a community. It strives to create a community in a sense, and The Spark accomplished this goal. There was spoken word, storytelling, visual art and musical performances in the interest of building community through creativity at Macalester.

The Spark also collaborated with the BLAC (Black Liberation Affairs Committee) organization and the BHM (Black History Month Committee) organization in honor of Black History Month. The BLAC Showcase featured a multitude of performances with the theme “Dream of Our Ancestors,” including performances by Bodacious, Black Girl Magic, Sister Patricia, Zabumba, Gabriel Cornier-Bridgeforth, Hawi Tilahune, Demetrius Colvin and Norwegian Chocolate. However, this was the first event in which The Spark had collaborated with a cultural organization.

Before the BLAC Showcase, Spark Live events seemed whitewashed. This has not just been a problem for The Spark, but for most organizations. The performances on Friday night were predominantly acted by white students. This has been The Spark’s main problem, as four of the central staff members are white males. It is hard to foster diversity and have performances conducted by students of color. By adding staff members who self-identify as students of color, they are trying to reach a broader and more diverse audience, a feat which has proven difficult for many orgs, but not impossible.

Another downside for The Spark events, particularly Spark Live, is the location of these events. The BLAC Showcase was held in the Kagin Ballroom Saturday evening, but Friday night Spark Live was held off campus. The first problem with off-campus events is the advertisement. When a student-run event is held off campus, it is harder to advertise and has to be advertised more than on-campus events. Posters, Facebook pages, table tents and various methods have to be used to get attention and bring people out. Attendance is key to keeping these events alive and prominent. The Spark Live had a great turnout, which means they did a good job of advertising this time, an achievement which is something for other groups and organizations to take into consideration when hosting off campus events.

Another problem of hosting off-campus events is exactly that: they are off campus. Students are skeptical toward those two words. The Spark Live was held a couple of blocks away from campus, and it was not too far of a walk, but if it had been any further then the turnout might have been less than stellar. A common myth at Macalester is that there is a “Mac bubble,” and it is easy to get caught in the cycle of staying on campus all of the time. Events on campus are easier to access and of which to be a part. The myth can be a reality, especially for students who are hesitant to go off campus.

So, while getting people to come out, participate in these events and gain diversity may be a challenge, The Spark is willing to take on this work. The Spark will have to work to reach a diverse audience and get that audience to become actors. The people who perform took a chance to speak what was on their mind and put themselves on the line, and that is comforting. It is amazing to hear artists put their heart and soul into their work, enough to share it with the rest of the world.

The Spark is beginning a conversation about art and, possibly, diversity in art and off-campus events. There are a ton of ways you can contribute to The Spark. They’re open to ideas and submissions of all types for live and web programming. That means if you’re a writer, poet, singer, dancer, videographer, photographer, visual artist or anyone who makes just about anything, your work will find a home somewhere at The Spark. Additionally, there’s a lot of work to be done behind the scenes to make all this happen, such as planning, outreach to clubs, contributors and administrators, plus other work like advertising, set-up and editing. The Spark in itself is a genius idea because it is trying to create a community around various types of art and bring people together.