Art Around Columbia: Sparky’s eclectic aesthetic


Sparky’s Paintings

Isabel Gompper

What is the meaning of art? When I think of art, I think of it as a creative process that elects an emotion from both the viewers and the artists themselves. To me this does not mean that the artwork needs to be “good.” Even if the art piece is what one would consider awkward and amateurish with mistakes, if the piece still creates an atmosphere, whether good or bad, I still consider it art.
Filled with delicious flavors of cold sweet treats, Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream shop is a perfect example of this idea. Since 2003 Sparky’s has been creating unique and popular ice cream. Sparky’s isn’t only known for its ice cream but also its uncomfortable and strange “bad art.” The owner of the establishment, Scott Southwick, searches online thrift stores for these obscure pieces to fill his shop.
The walls are covered with these paintings, ranging from quirky self portraits to unsettling paintings of dogs. Most of the art is considered amateurish, filled with mistakes and wrong proportions. Although by themselves these pieces may look bad, all together they create an atmosphere in the shop that complements the odd ice cream flavors and downtown environment. A mood is the most important thing to a store or business. It creates an emotional connection to the buyers or customers that makes them enjoy the place more. Sparky’s fun atmosphere is very welcoming with the addition of the paintings and bright colors of the interior. I think for any other type of store, the paintings would be too much and could kill the quality, but for something like the local downtown ice cream store, it brings out a more youthful feeling to the customers.
I asked my friends what they felt about the artwork in Sparky’s, and many of them agreed with my feelings for the work.
“For Sparky’s, it’s a hometown ice cream store. It’s not Central Dairy. It’s not Dairy Queen. Its whole vibe is small-town ice cream, and I think it’s very ingenious that they use amature art from the area to decorate their walls, especially because Columbia is such a liberal, artsy kind of town. They don’t need super suave interior design because they have art, and it makes people feel at home and provides a sense of community, especially because its amature art. It’s not professional art; it’s not crazy intense cold wax paintings; it’s not abstract or complex charcoal pieces; it’s just what any local can do,” said senior Grace Kirk, friend and fellow lover of the arts. “It’s paint that you can get at any store, and its personal and weird. I think that it’s very interesting that they use the unique aspect of the people of Columbia to create a sense of community and to draw in their customers and make them feel at home with the art.”