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Artspark Ignites Interest in Local Art Scene

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Kristal Griffith

Artspark alums

Will Alverson and Julia Farrell aren’t artists. In fact, the DU undergraduates are studying analytics, computer science, business, physics and math. Yet, it was their passion for local art that brought them together to launch a business called Artspark.

“My family was into art,” says Alverson, a second-year Daniels College of Business student. “When I traveled with my mom and sister, we would always go to art museums and local galleries.”

Farrell, a senior computer science major, moved to Denver from Mooresville, N.C. She loved going to the First Friday Art Walk in Denver’s Santa Fe art district.

“Everybody loves to look at art,” Farrell says. “But, when I went to First Fridays, there wasn’t a directory, and it was hard to find the galleries. I thought with my coding experience, I could make [a directory] pretty easily.”

Farrell tossed her idea out at Dynamize, DU’s student entrepreneurship club. Alverson, who was at the meeting, was paying close attention. He had developed Artspark, a website to share local art with interested parties, in his Gateway to Business class, an introductory course that requires students to develop and launch an app. Students can then compete for seed money in the Madden Challenge. Alverson took second place in the competition.

Alverson knew if he wanted to develop Artspark into a feasible business, he needed to recruit someone with coding skills. Farrell was a perfect fit. The two teamed up, along with Jack Wickum, a second-year international studies major, to bring Artspark to launch.

The website features local art galleries and promotes local artists.

“We want to help art galleries turn over their inventory faster,” Alverson explains. “It’s a great resource for art lovers but also for the galleries. We can track user behavior and collect great data for the galleries to work with.”

Artspark alums in front of wall

Two local galleries, the Georgia Amar Fine Art Gallery and the David B. Smith Gallery, have signed on.

“We get to go to the art galleries and get exclusive looks at the exhibitions before they happen,” Farrell says.

Farrell and Alverson might not be artists, but they see their passion for art and entrepreneurship taking off.

“Our current business plan starts small,” Alverson says. “But we think this has a lot of market potential. This could have huge demand in many cities known for local art.”

Alverson has two more years before he graduates. Wickum and Farrell graduate in fall 2017. Farrell hopes Artspark will scale by then. If not, she plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity.

Stephen Haag, faculty director of entrepreneurship and the instructor for the Gateway to Business course, has mentored and advised the entrepreneurial team from the start.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Will, Julia and Jack,” Haag said. “They have ideated, pivoted, persevered and succeeded. Working with them has made me a better person.”