Celebrating Innovation in Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a source of health and wellness, economic benefit, and cultural enrichment for the San Diego region and beyond. To honor this, Forever Balboa Park’s newly created sPARK Awards recognize people and organizations that amplify Balboa Park’s distinct role and increase its positive impact on wellbeing through creativity, collaboration, and imagination.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023
5:00 – 7:00 PM
The Ballroom and Courtyard at the House of Hospitality
1549 El Prado
Balboa Park, San Diego

Special Guest Speaker: Carlos de la Mora, WDC 2024

Carlos de la Mora, CEO for World Design Capital San Diego-Tijuana 2024 (WDC), is the special guest speaker for the sPARK Awards 2023. In conversation with Forever Balboa Park President and CEO, Dr. Elizabeth C. Babcock, Mr. de la Mora will explore the many facets of innovation through his insights into creative processes and ingenuity. 

Architect by training, and connector by nature, Carlos has worked in architecture, design, and planning since 1993. He studied Architecture and Urban Design at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and obtained a graduate degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc, Los Angeles) in 1999.

In 2018, Carlos became Executive Director for ULI Mexico and led the Land Development practice for CBRE, Consulting, Brokerage, and Real Estate Service, in Mexico for the next four years. A bicultural citizen with extensive experience in developing professional and personal relationships, Carlos works with artists, investors, designers, architects, and developers, connecting people, projects, and places across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles in Mexico and the United States.

Support the Event

The sPARK Awards inspire a sense of belonging, welcoming a wide range of nominees: individuals and organizations; nonprofit, public or private sector; and within or beyond the boundaries of Balboa Park. Award winners are selected after careful review of nominations by a volunteer Selection Committee with diverse knowledge, experience, and backgrounds, and a shared love for Balboa Park. A $5,000 cash prize will be provided to each awardee’s nonprofit of affiliation or choice from Park Catalyst sponsor San Diego Foundation, to fuel continued innovation and curiosity.

Award Categories: 2023 Awardees

Nominations are closed. See the outstanding nominees below. 

Igniting Innovation

The Igniting Innovation Award recognizes innovation, imagination, and risk-taking related to Balboa Park. Individuals, organizations, partnerships, or collaboratives may receive this award for efforts that spark new ways of viewing or experiencing Balboa Park, leading to increased opportunities, possibilities, and potential.

Crossing Boundaries 

The Crossing Boundaries Award recognizes interdisciplinary or cross-sector collaboration that demonstrates Balboa Park’s multifaceted impact. Individuals, organizations, partnerships, or collaboratives may receive this award for efforts that cross disciplinary, organizational, cultural, generational, or other boundaries to make connections among nature, art, science, performance, learning, history, civic engagement, or other areas of interest.

Enhancing Ecosystems

The Enhancing Ecosystems Award recognizes outstanding efforts to improve the environmental wellbeing and sustainability of Balboa Park, and thus, the natural world. Individuals, organizations, partnerships, or collaboratives may receive this award for efforts that enhance Balboa Park ecosystems, expand environmental stewardship within or through Balboa Park, or support the connection between Balboa Park’s natural spaces and community health.


Andrew Utt
Executive Director
Institute of Contemporary Art
   San Diego

Desha Crownover

Girl Scouts San Diego
The Incredible Race

Mingei International Museum

Roger Showley

San Diego Architectural
Built Environment Education


Jack Carpenter, Rene Smith,
   and Roger Showley

Japanese Friendship Garden

Mingei International Museum
San Diego Design Week

Michael Stepner
Balboa Park Design Review
   Exploratory Committee

Young Lions Jazz Conservatory
San Diego Museum of Art,
   Panama 66


David Wageman
Greens Manager, San Diego Lawn
   Bowling Club    

Michael Field
San Diego Natural History Museum

San Diego Urban Timber

Rene Smith

Steven Pfong & Jose Sifuentes
Clean I Love San Diego

Selection Committee

Neville Billimoria
SVP Membership/Marketing & Chief Advocacy Officer
Mission Federal Credit Union

Natasha Bliss
Director of Strategic Partnerships
San Diego State University

Christiana DeBenedict
Director, Environmental Initiatives
San Diego Foundation

Vicki Estrada
Estrada Land Planning 

Brian Matthews 
The Matthews Company

Codi Vierra 
Deputy Chief of Staff 
San Diego City Council, District 3


Thank you to our generous event partners! To help underwrite the sPARK Awards, please contact Janessa Wheeler at  janessa@balboapark.org or (619) 331-1115. 


Sponsors as of Monday, Feb. 27: 
Park Catalyst
Official Partner of the sPARK Awards
Park Innovator
Park Partners
Sessions Newsletter

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