Adding Spark Gallery’s History to our Pages

Spark Gallery, circa 1981, where it was first located at 33rd and Osage. Founding Spark members were: Charlie DiJulio, Marilyn Duke, Jane Fudge, John Fudge, Paul Gillis, Jerry Johnson, Richard Kallweit, Andy Libertone, Marcia Marfia, Marilyn Nelson, Margaret Neumann, Clark Richert, Suzy Roesler and George Woodman. Photo by Marcia Mafia

Feb. 27, 2024


Thank you for Celeste Benzschawel’s article on the BRDG Project in the Feb. 15 issue of The Denver North Star. This gallery is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood that I’ve resided in since 1982. 

A few weeks ago, I attended the panel discussion that accompanied the “Original Rebels” show.  It stirred many fond memories. But something was missing from that discussion, from Benzschawel’s article and also from Rebecca Hunt’s column on the Navajo Art District in your January issue.

That something is Spark Gallery, and I am writing today to add a little about Spark’s history to the pages of your publication. 

Spark was in fact the first co-op gallery to be established in the Navajo Art District. It was founded in 1979 by recent art grads from CU Denver and CU Boulder, as well as some faculty; and it was the sole gallery on the block until Pirate arrived in 1980. Edge moved in soon thereafter and critical mass was achieved. I was one of hundreds of visitors to the district who would take in all three shows on Friday evenings, often with my longtime partner Clark Richert, a founding member of Spark. Artists often gathered at “Art Bar” prior to shows, where openings were promoted, invitations distributed, art issues discussed, and beer and pizza or burgers flowed at venues such as the Wazee Supper Club and Two Mule Inn.

For decades, Spark exhibited some of the best art in the area, representing such artists as Clark Richert, Paul Gillis, Andy Libertone, Margaret Neumann, Patty Ortiz, George Woodman, Jerry Johnson, Charles DiJulio and John Fudge. Many other fine artists followed.

Member artists who made up Spark Gallery in its early years, when the gallery was located at 33rd and Osage in North Denver. Back row, left to right: David Rigsby, Andy Libertone, Eric Johnson, Ted Thomas, Patty Ortiz, Marilyn Nelson, Marcia Marfia, Susie Roesler, John Fudge, Clark Richert. Front row, left to right: Jerry Rosenthal, Carol Weil, Marilyn Nelson, Paula Crane, Barbara Baer, June Julian. Members not pictured: Margaret Neumann, Paul Gillis, Richard Kallweit. Photo by Marcia Mafia, courtesy of Barbara Ittner

Ultimately, Spark gallery moved to the S. Santa Fe Art District, where they’ve operated ever since. The building at 33rd and Osage was razed and the lot remains vacant.

Together, these art co-ops served as an invaluable contribution to the arts in Denver and the arts; and my hope is that arts and culture will continue to thrive through BRDG and other cultural venues. 

Barbara Ittner
Denver, CO  80211

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