When we first started thinking about the concept behind this organization, it was important to us that we have a name that really fit our vision. After brainstorming and coming up with the name Create a Spark Foundation or SPARK as it has become known, we came across a Ted Talk by Peter Benson on Sparks. It was as if we had written it ourselves. He explains: "Spark is a life orientation. It’s an approach, it’s a way of being present in the world. It may touch work, it may be work, it may be outside of work. It’s not the same thing as vocational planning. It’s about nurturing and naming what is inside." In his research he has discovered the following are the leading categories of sparks in children and teenagers:
• Helping, serving, and volunteering
• Learning a particular subject matter
• Service to the Globe
• The Creative life
"The winner in all of these categories is the creative life: art, music, drama, dance, and movement is the largest category in which sparks fall for America’s kids. Interesting. That’s the arena in which most kids say, I’m my best self. That’s the arena in which most kids say this is where life is the fullest and the most hopeful. How are we doing in America in supporting art, drama, dance movement? It’s not that we want all of those kids to necessarily become professionals in that field. It’s about right now. Human development is about today, it’s about how I awaken, how I am seen, how I am known and how I am embraced."
How can we "Create a Spark" in youth today?
- Mentors and Teachers: Finding mentors with a spark of their own, a passion for their craft. Creating programs and classes around these mentors and teachers is key to igniting a love and passion in little artists.
- Nurturing environment: Each individual should be celebrated for his or her uniqueness that they offer the world. Setting high yet achievable expectations that will push each child to reach their full potential will create confident and happy adults.
- High Standards: We believe in setting boundaries that will help a child to feel safe to grow and learn. We strive to uphold high standards of content in our programs, modesty in costuming and dress, clean music, and a strong code of conduct. We feel that by doing this we can create an optimal environment for families to feel confident that their children are learning and growing in positivity, confidence, kindness, modesty, and all other worthy values while they are developing their talents. We support families and want to add value to their lives and not stretch them too thin. We will be closed for business on Sundays to honor family time.
- Diversity in programs: As we grow we have plans to implement many additional programs to cater to the many sparks that exist in the human spirit. Things like songwriting, poetry, visual art, and photography to name a few.
- Scholarships and Tuition Assistance: We are dedicated to the belief that exceptional artistic and educational opportunities should not be limited due to financial means.
Staff and Board of Directors:
Nicole Carter - Executive Director
Nicole Carter is the perfect example of what Peter Benson describes as someone who has the spark of an artist. Though she did not pursue the arts professionally she has always identified herself as an artist. Raised by a musician and composer by trade, the arts were paramount to her childhood. In her early years she was an impassioned dancer and singer songwriter. She went on to study dance in college and has a degree in Performing Fine Arts. Married at a young age, Nicole has four children of her own. Three of them have a deep love for theatre and dance and have been the driving force behind the reawakening to her artistic spirit. Nicole has a love for children and enjoys nothing more than seeing them reach their potential and share their talents with the world. For this purpose and with the help of Dana Cretsinger and Audrey Gross, Nicole founded Create a Spark Foundation in 2015.
Dana Cretsinger - Creative Director
Originally from Iowa, Dana Cretsinger started dancing at three and began performing on stage professionally when she was nine years old. By the time she finished high-school she had already performed many coveted female roles for Lyric Theatre, Jewel Box, Illinois Repertory Theatre and Chopin Theatre. She studied Vocal Performance (BM) at Oklahoma City University. In 2007 she became teaching certified in Speech Level Singing (SLS Level 1) and KinderMusik. Dana's talents have taken her to Branson, Los Angeles, Chicago, Mexico, Europe and South America in various touring companies, showcases and even "The Moscow Circus". In addition to training and experience Dana owned, operated and taught piano, dance and voice at Academy of Music & Dance in Oklahoma. She is a truly talented director and mentor and is beloved by her students.
Sam Cardon - Program Development
Sam Cardon is an EMMY winning composer whose credits include 9 large-format films:Texas, The Big Picture, Lewis and Clark, The Legendary Journeys, Shakleton’s Antarctic Adventure, Mysteries of Egypt, Olympic Glory, Whales, Building the Dream at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California; Treasure of the Gods at Zion National Park, Utah and The Secret of San Francisco at Pier 39.
In addition, he has written or co-written such themes as National Geographic Explorer, ABC Sunday Night at the Movies, Good Morning America and provided three hours of original music for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary and recently provided music for Closing Ceremonies at the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games.