The Sparks Gallery Team:
Sonya Sparks, Owner and Curator at Sparks GallerySonya Sparks launched the Sparks Gallery in downtown San Diego in 2013. The gallery reopened on March 1st, 2015 after restoration to the historic building. Sonya studied art in conjunction with obtaining her Bachelor's degree in Business Administration at the University of San Diego. “I always wanted to be involved in the arts and remember drawing, painting, and taking photographs at a young age. I studied art at the University of San Diego but decided to major in Business Administration instead of art, because the art scene in San Diego wasn’t very open to new hires at the time (early 2000s). After working for 8 years in international business and web development, I felt it was time to start something new. 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. My family also helped with the restoration and design of the space, and it has been a great family project to work on together.” --Sparks / Read More...
Jessica AmayaJessica Amaya is the Gallery Operations Director at Sparks Gallery. Hailing from Los Angeles, Jessica was a Founding Volunteer at LA Plaza de Cultura y Arts in Los Angeles and also worked for the Los Angeles Art Show. She has been a guest speaker for the AjA Project program at Barrio Logan College Institute for under-served children in San Diego and was selected to join the Steering Committee for Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego in 2016. Jessica received a B.A. in Global Humanities with a Minor in Educational Technology from San Diego State University. She worked in human resources management for several prominent companies in Los Angeles and the San Diego area prior to her transition into the arts.
Emily KnappIn over a decade working in advertising and marketing in NYC Emily Knapp helped global brands fight malaria, handcraft small batch whiskey, launch first generation technology products, and bring manufacturing at scale back to America. After spending 2016 traveling the country with her husband, Knapp recently settled in San Diego where she plans to channel her talent for building brands into supporting and promoting Sparks Gallery's many talented artists.
Barry WilsonBarry received his B.S., M.S., and PhD. degrees in the biological sciences and immunology from the University of Illinois. After Eighteen years as a scientist and educator in cancer research at The Scripps Research Institute, University of Michigan Medical School and Hybritech, Inc., Barry obtained a law degree from University of San Diego and worked as a patent attorney in various law firms (until 2013). Barry is the President and co-owner of a real-estate investment company which owns the Sterling Hardware Building (Sparks Gallery), among others. After his role as a co-general contractor for the adaptive reuse of the property into an art gallery, Barry continues to manage the property and volunteers at the gallery as Director of Development.
Chris EconomoBorn in New Jersey, Chris spent his formative years in the midwest prior to moving to California. During graduate school he gained experience in the hospitality industry and began teaching part time at the college level. Shortly after graduating, he relocated to Los Angeles where he worked in finance and real estate. In 2009, he took on a unique opportunity to fulfill the role of Contract Compliance Officer for a non-profit organization in a predominantly Spanish speaking area in East Los Angeles. Several years later, he found himself back in the midwest working with a friend to launch a lounge/event hall concept. Missing the California weather, he eventually found his way back to Los Angeles and most recently relocated to San Diego. In addition to his role of Event Coordinator at Sparks Gallery, Chris continues to teach part time and is also a licensed real estate agent.
“Sterling Hardware Building” History:
The “Sterling Hardware Building” was built in 1924 and designated as a historic building in the early 1980s when the Gaslamp Quarter was created. Originally the 50x100’ lot was sold by real estate developer, Alonzo Horton, in 1867 for $150. The lot was later split into two separate properties of 25x100’ and sold separately. The north lot held a vaudeville theater, named “The Standard Theater”, specializing in variety shows and trapeze artists from 1888-1890. The south lot held a three-story building with levels for carriage repair and painting and upper level room rentals. Later, the space was mainly occupied by C. Holle Company, maker of specialized glass, from 1911-1914. In 1904, Moritz Trepte, a German immigrant and carpenter, purchased the north half for $10. Trepte became “one of the Pacific Southwest’s leading contractors” and one can see his stamp on many old sidewalks throughout San Diego. Kier construction purchased both lots and built the current structure in 1924. The Sterling Company, seller of second-hand goods and tools, resided in the building in the 1970s, when it was developed into a corporate building. Sparks Gallery launched the space as an art gallery in 2013 and re-opened with a new design in March 2015. Sparks Gallery launched the space as an art gallery in 2013 and re-opened with a new design in March 2015. The original wood floor and brick walls were restored by hand, creating an elegant balance between industrial and handcrafted detail. New industrial steel columns and seismic bracing to the building expanded the capacity limit from 50 to 348 occupants. In addition, an upper level mezzanine and interior structure with a catering kitchen, restrooms, office, and elevator lift to the second floor was newly constructed.