Now in its 36th year, Raleigh’s annual arts festival, Artsplosure, is growing. This year, the free extravaganza has spread from Moore Square and City Market onto Fayetteville Street – reflecting the city’s burgeoning role as a festival hub – and has expanded from two days of festivities to three.
The festival, which takes place Friday through Sunday, also added an Artsplosure app to help navigate the sprawling fest, which includes free music and activities for kids – but the art market remains the heart of the fest.
If you go, go smart; know the parking options ahead of time, check the weather and dress for it, and most of all, study the Artsplosure schedule! You don’t want to show up an hour after your favorite band finishes. We put together a few reliable tips for your Artsplosure trip.
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What’s an art fest without art? To break it down, the centerpiece marketplace brings plenty of the expected – whimsical folk art, breathtaking photography and traditional Southern crafts. These are balanced nicely by curveballs, such as California artist Lee Watrous, who crafts striking, fashionable cowboy hats; or Charlotte’s Mark Ellis, who constructs postmodern birdhouses – call him the Frank Lloyd Wright of chickadees.
If you go: Bring a little money. You already got in free, after all... Some of the art may be pricy, sure, but often you’re directly supporting the person in the booth – and you get a decoration with a story behind it, to boot.
There’ll always be music in the air, as Artsplosure features three full days’ worth of bands. But which ones to passively listen to as you browse paintings, and which to actively seek out? There are lots of great acts, but we especially like the trio ChoroBop, which plays the main stage at 2 p.m. Saturday. They blur vibrant Brazilian styles with jazz fusion and acoustic folk. It’s light and accessible, but complex and fascinating all at the same time. Also, Triangle Community Orchestra, a remarkable all-volunteer chamber orchestra, which plays at 2 p.m. Sunday at the North Carolina stage on Fayetteville Street.
If you go: Be prepared for crowds. Raleigh’s own American Aquarium, who play the main stage Sunday at 6 p.m., write fearlessly personal alt-country and are all excellent showmen. For this, they’ve garnered a huge and faithful following. Be prepared to wade through fans for a good vantage.
Take your kids and let them dabble in the arts! Something may stick, and they could have booths of their own here one day. Kidsplosure features puppeteers and crafts, music and dance. Of note, Indigo Dance Evolution brings Bollywood and other Indian dance styles to the Kidsplosure stage at noon Sunday, while puppeteer Tarish Jeghetto Pipkins performs at 11 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
If you go: Obviously bring sunscreen, as you don’t want sunburned children on your hands.
Artsplosure runs 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.
Free to attend.
For the full schedule, visit raleighartsfestival.com.