Brooke Matson headshot

BROOKE MATSON (’05, ’08)
role
Chief Creative Engineer,
Obsessive Bookmaker

keys to inspiration
Mary Oliver’s poetry, wandering in nature, kayaking

spokane fave
Ruins, Pie & Whiskey at GetLit!, and the falls in the springtime

Words by Jeff Bunch
Photo by Zack Berlat (’11)

It’s a fitting catchphrase of a rising Spokane arts nonprofit entity. They are also qualities Gonzaga alumna Brooke Matson (’05, ’08) embodies personally.

Matson, a poet and former Spokane Arts Award winner, is executive director at Spark Central, a whimsical center of inspiring serendipity located in the heart of Spokane’s booming Kendall Yards neighborhood. Both Matson and Spark Central are hard to define with a label or put in a box, which is why both are successful.

Matson doesn’t care about titles or professional glory. Her measures of success are the kid who shines after being given a voice or a neighborhood being reinvigorated. She was that kid, and from a community not unlike West Central Spokane – a first-generation college graduate who had to rely on financial aid, jobs, loans and sacrifice by her parents to attend Gonzaga.

At GU, the Jesuit ideal of being a person for others resonated with Matson, who became part of the first group of Zags who volunteered in Zambia. As editor of a literary journal, she satisfied her lifelong passion for publishing. She parlayed her talents and work ethic to earn a teaching degree focused on English and set out on a conventional path in the field that lasted only a year.

“I decided I really wasn’t happy in the traditional school system and I wanted to look at alternative education and more creative education programs,” said  Matson, who turned down a coveted full-time teaching job and returned to her alma mater, achieving a Master’s of Educational Administration in 2008. It was a perfect fit, and set up a pivotal career moment.

She taught for seven years in Mead School District’s alternative program, where she found a calling that, combined with a stint at a Seattle nonprofit arts organization, prepared her for her current role as chief visionary at Spark Central.

Today, Spark Central offers programs for all ages. In a given week, workshops may range from writing poetry, to a Girls Rock Lab, to coding for kids. It offers an artisan library collection, gallery space, and free access to technology and high-speed internet. All of it happens on a modest budget funded by individual donations and grants, and some key partnerships. At the core of Matson and of Spark Central is an eclectic combination of ideas fueled by playful creativity
and learning with the intent of community betterment. “I’ve always had a strong sense of purpose,” says Matson, “the sense that you don’t just exist for you, but for contributing something or being part of something bigger.”

 

Learn more about Spark Central here

 

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