Berkeley Spark 2.0: Art, innovation and a kinetic bear

This year's Berkeley Spark will showcase "Ursus Redivivus," a kinetic-sculpture bear made from scrap metal. Photo: Kat Parkin
This year’s Berkeley Spark will showcase “Ursus Redivivus,” a kinetic-sculpture bear made from scrap metal. Photo: Kat Parkin

On Saturday July 19, Berkeley’s Civic Center Park will be filled with artists, idea makers, entrepreneurs and techies from around the Bay Area for the second annual Berkeley Spark, a festival of creative and technological splendor.

From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., these innovators will host an array of activities and share their ideas with the public. At the event’s “tech corridor,” representatives from All Power Labs will showcase their biomass-fueled power generators. ArtIsMobilUs, Frankentrikes and Infinity Boxes will be there too. Attendees can also participate in a letter-writing project by Letters to the Universe, or share their work at a hip-hop open mic.

For the foodies, organizers are bringing in Drake’s Brewing Co., Dan Cook of The Mead Kitchen, Amy Murray from Revival Bar + Kitchen and Tamales Acapulco to share their specialty drinks and food dishes.

Berkeley Spark 2013 drew thousands of people to Civic Center Park. Photo: Kat Parkin
Berkeley Spark 2013 drew thousands of people to Berkeley’s Civic Center Park. Photo: Kat Parkin

Countless more activities are listed on Berkeley Spark’s website, but what attendees may find most exciting — and what organizers are especially keen to show off — is the massive bear sculpture that will be gracing this year’s festival.

Named “Ursus Redivivus” by its creators, the bear is a recycler’s dream. Most of its parts were salvaged from an escalator at an old Ross Dress for Less store.

Chip Erickson, part owner of a Walgreens on Shattuck Avenue, commissioned the piece and hired kinetic-sculpture artists Alex Nolan, Phillip Glashof and his son Chad to build it. Erickson said the bear took around two years to finish.

As a special treat, anyone wanting to learn about the building process will have the chance to speak to one of the welders accompanying the bear to Berkeley Spark, according to festival organizer Kat Parkin.

Other artists will be at the festival to share their craft, Parkin said, including Chris Carter, Laura Inserra and Zach Pine.

This openness between artist and observer was a key goal for the organizers, who drew inspiration from the well-known Burning Man festival. Thousands of people from around the country congregate in the Nevada desert during this week-long affair to “dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression and self-reliance,” according to its website.

A Berkeley Spark participant wears a clown nose for an art project that aims to spread happiness. Photo: Kat Parkin
A Berkeley Spark participant wears a clown nose for an art project that aims to spread happiness. Photo: Kat Parkin

John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, wanted to bring some of that spirit to Berkeley. He had been an attendee of Burning Man, as had Parkin. Almost two years ago, they were introduced to each other at a bar and, three months after that, they created Berkeley Spark.

According to Parkin, last year’s inaugural event brought several thousand people to the park. In the upcoming years, she hopes the festival will attract even more people and their creations.

“I want people who are in the community who come [to Berkeley Spark] see something amazing and have that opportunity to give back and share. We’re trying to say, ‘What are you up to, what are your designs, don’t’ hide them behind your door, come share them with us,’” Parkin said.

Admission is free, and anyone wishing to provide their own programming will have to wait until next year as the festival is fully booked. But Parkin and her team are looking for volunteers to help with operations. Anyone interested in more information can visit the Berkeley Spark website.

Berkeleyside is a sponsor of Berkeley Spark. Visit Berkeley Spark online for full details.

Drew Jaffe is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the East Bay and now attends Occidental College in Los Angeles. He can be reached at

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