From a spark, the arts get down to business

Here’s something to celebrate about Fresno County: Local business leaders and educators are leading the way in terms of supporting arts education in our schools.

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I got to know a lot more about the county’s innovative arts-business coalition and its SPARK! program when writing a freelance story that was posted yesterday on the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation website. The folks at Hewlett are so enamored of this program — which was originally conceived by Bob Bullwinkel at the Fresno County Office of Education and Darius Assemi of Granville Homes — that they awarded two sizable grants, totaling $280,000, to build the SPARK! program’s website and market it.

The foundation wants to get the word out to other California business leaders that arts education isn’t just a frivolous luxury. It cultivates an important advantage for the viability of a 21st century workforce in terms of problem-solving and analytical skills necessary to compete in a new global economy. One of the voices in the story is Jake Soberal from Fresno’s Bitwise Industries, who sat with me for a cup of coffee and a conversation on why he thinks the arts are so important.

From my story:


It’s about jobs. It’s about building a skilled workforce attractive to companies either starting up or looking to relocate to the area. It’s about preparing young people for employment in a rapidly changing technological world.

Soberal, who found his artistic passion in writing, is blunt. “This idea that art is philanthropy is completely bunk,” he said. “Virtually every career is amplified by some sort of arts training or experience. It’s much too narrow a view of the world to suggest that art doesn’t have a commercial outcome beyond, say, selling a painting. I think it’s a critical foundational skill to expand our workforce.”

I invite you to read the piece and share it as a celebration of the importance of the arts, with Fresno as a leading example. To get involved with SPARK! on your own, the program is always looking for more business and individual donors.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (2)

  • Interesting! Thank you for sharing!

  • Stephen Mintz

    Bob Bullwinkle belongs on Fresno’s Mount Rushmore for the arts.

    Jake Soberal is quickly becoming a hall of fame Fresnan, the man who might accomplish what politicians (and Craig Scharton) couldn’t do before.

    It’s great to see our best arts journalist and writer tell the stories of today’s heroes, from Dominic Grijalva to Joel Abels to Marcos Dorado, and to place them alongside the icons of Fresco; From Dan Pessano to Jackie Ryle to The Bixlers and beyond.

    Everyone worries about rising crime and frightening economical times. You want to combat those things? Invest in the arts. It works every time.


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