Sparkplug for DC Artists

Curatorial Initiative for Curators




Sparkplug was launched in 2007, as DC Arts Center’s artist collective. Approximately ten artists, from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences from the Washington DC area, are selected to come together to form each new group. Over the course of the two year program, Sparkplug members meet on a monthly basis to do critiques and socialize. The structure of the program creates opportunities for camaraderie, productive feedback, and professional development.

If selected to join Sparkplug, members are expected to actively participate in the program. Responsibilities include: continuing to actively create new artwork, attending in-person meetings, and giving constructive feedback to other artists. Being able to work with other members with diverse practices and personalities is critical. Each member is also responsible for hosting at least one meeting in a location within the DC, MD, VA area.

To facilitate the professional development of collective members, DCAC will organize studio visits, offer opportunities for artists to hone presentation skills, and provide resources for artistic enrichment. Sparkplug members are able to tap into a deep roster of alumni members, in addition, DCAC will help initiate new connections with local curators, collectors, and established artists. For each year of the program, DCAC organizes two curated Sparkplug exhibitions for the group in its main gallery.


Collective members agree to:

  • Meet monthly to participate in critiques, plan exhibitions, and discuss topics related to their art practice
  • Identify resources that will assist in their artistic development and communicate those needs to DCAC
  • Create new work during their two-year membership in Sparkplug
  • Provide artwork for Sparkplug shows and related projects, when requested
  • Abide by the exhibition contracts for Sparkplug shows at DCAC
  • Represent Sparkplug at DCAC events
  • List their participation in Sparkplug in their professional materials (bio, website, blog, etc.) and provide a link to DCAC’s website,, on their own websites
  • Maintain DCAC membership at the $60 membership level or above while in Sparkplug (membership includes 20% off all DCAC tickets and events; bimonthly calendar of events; FREE 2’x2′ square at 1460 Wallmountables; invitations to member meetings and events)

DCAC agrees to:

  • Provide an advisor who will coordinate monthly meetings and facilitate the planning process for Sparkplug exhibitions and events
  • Provide administrative support to Sparkplug—maintaining a roster of members, scheduling activities, and maintaining Sparkplug’s presence on the DCAC website and in the newsletter
  • Provide opportunities for artists to publicly present their work and helps artists hone their presentation skills
  • Organize a “Blitz Crit” event for Sparkplug members, bringing together a group of local curators for an evening of critiques
  • Make the gallery or theater available for monthly discussions and critiques
  • Work with Sparkplug artists to identify essential outside expertise (legal, technical, curatorial, etc.) and bring knowledgeable professionals to share information at meetings
  • Host two group shows of Sparkplug artists at DCAC and find curators to work with the artists for those exhibitions

To apply for Sparkplug 2021-23, please submit the following here:

1) This completed application form, including an artist statement of 200 words or less.

2) An up-to-date résumé or CV.

3) Ten samples of artwork created within the last 5 years, and a list of corresponding work information.

We will be accepting submissions through the fall.



Sparkplug Prototype; 2007: Djakarta Jacobs, Ian Jehle, Jennifer Foley, Lea-Ann Bigelow, Karen Joan Topping, and Laurel Hausler

Sparkplug 2007-2010: Blair Murphy, Deborah Anzinger, Karen Joan Topping, Kathryn McDonnell, Peter Gordon, Michael Matason, Lisa McCarty, Jenny Walton, Lea-Ann Bigelow, and Mark Planisek

Sparkplug 2010-2012: Chajana denHarder, Chandi Kelley, Dafna Sternberg, Matt Smith, Todd Gardner, Joseph Hale, and Blair Murphy

Sparkplug 2012-2014: Amy Hughes Braden, Lee Gainer, Piper Grosswendt, Michelle Lisa Herman, Rebecca Kallem, Corwin Levi, Rachel Schmidt, and Stephanie Williams

Sparkplug 2015-2016: Casey Snyder, Brendan Smith, Jerry Truong, Michael Booker, Megan Maher, DeLesslin George-Warren, Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin, David Ibata, and Jerome Skiscim.

Sparkplug 2017-2018: Héctor Cataño, Eric Celarier, Alexis Gomez, Sarah Jamison, Ashley Ja’nae, Zofie Lang, Kelly Posey, Katie Pumphrey, Renée Regan, Julie Wills

Sparkplug 2019-2020: Tom Greaves, Sarah J. Hull, Shana Kohnstamm, Alanna Reeves, Azadeh Sahraeian, Elizabeth H. Sampson, Alexandra Silverthorne, Sarah Stefana Smith, Madeline A. Stratton, Steve Wanna.


2007: Chamber Play; artDC International Art Fair in Washington, DC from April 27 to May 30. Curated by Lea-Ann Bigelow.

2008: DCAC’s Sparkplug; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from May 2 -11 with Artists’ Talk on May 10. Curated by Lea-Ann Bigelow.

2008: E32. Participation in slide presentation at 5C Cultural Center in New York City on September 16.

2009: Sparkplug: NEW WORK; Exhibition at Arlington Arts Center, Jenkins Community Gallery, Arlington, VA, from June 19 to August 22 with Artists’ Talk on July 22. Curated by Lea-Ann Bigelow and Blair Murphy.

2009: Findings; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from October 16 to November 15 with Artists’ Talk on November 8. Curated by Lea-Ann Bigelow and Blair Murphy.

2010: Facts and Fictions; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from June 18 to July 19 with Artists’ Talk on July 11. Curated by Blair Murphy.

2011: Something Other Than The Present; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from June 17 to July 17 with Artists’ Talk on July 16. Curated by Blair Murphy.

2012: Loose Ends; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from June 15 to July 15 with Artists’ Talk July 15. Curated by Deborah Anzinger.

2013: External Memory; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from June 7 to July 14 Artists’ Talk July 14. Curated by Chandi Kelley.

2014: (inter)Related; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from June 6 to July 13 with Artists’ Talk July 13. Curated by Allison Nance.

2015: Dis/Satisfaction: Permission to rewrite history, it’s personal; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from February 13th to March 15 with Artists’ Talk on March 15th. Curated by Kathryn McDonnell.

2016: Power (I Know It When…); Exhibition at DC Arts Center from October 21 to December 4 with Artists’ Talk on November 17. Curated by Lea-Ann Bigelow.

2017: Process & Practice; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from February 17 – March 19 with Artists’ Talk on March 12. Curated by Andrew Johnson.

2018: Heritage: Now; Exhibition at DC Arts Center from October 19 – November 25,Artists’ Talk on November 18. Curated by Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell.