The 36th annual Artsplosure was winding through its third day on Fayetteville Street when an aerialist’s rigging came down Sunday, clipping a bystander.
The man, 50, who has not been identified, was watching Raleigh-based Down to Earth Aerials at the corner of Hargett and Fayettville streets, when witnesses said a gust of wind toppled the rigging.
Two female performers escaped injury, but the gear holding one woman’s acrobatics ring knocked the man to the ground.
Wake EMS responders helped the man, who was alert, onto a stretcher and took him to Duke Health Raleigh to be checked out, officials said. His condition was unknown, but a vendor who heard the crash said the man appeared to be in pain and wasn’t moving much.
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The accident was the first that he could remember at the festival, Artsplosure’s Executive Director Michael Lowder said.
This year’s event showcased several changes, said Jennie Lanning, marketing and promotions manager. The biggest was adding an extra day to give more exposure to the 180 visual artists, stage acts and street musicians chosen for the event, Lanning said. More than 80,000 people were expected to attend.
“We’re always trying to make things bigger and better,” she said.
The Art Market and musical stages also moved this year from their longtime spot near Moore Square to Fayetteville Street. The interactive Kidsplosure event for children stayed in Moore Square.
The move was made in advance of the city’s long-planned Moore Square renovation, Lanning said. The city has not signed off on the project yet, but officials expect it to start in 2016.
Jan Burger, co-founder of Paperhand Puppet Intervention, said the change created a “much more relaxed” atmosphere for families and artists working with young visitors.
Paperhand Puppet Intervention built people-size cardboard birdhouses for this year’s “Birdtown” at Kidsplosure, setting out a box of bird puppets to encourage play. Crouched and squawking, the kids ran through the narrow halls of “Birdtown,” pausing in the rooms with vaulted ceilings to plan their next move and popping out of cutout holes to scare unsuspecting passerbys.
Artist Greg Carter crafted colorful wooden birds for the event, which also offered stations for making bird feeders, drawing and building birds nests from ribbons and other materials. The theme also paired artists with local students and others to decorate birdhouses for the Community Birdhouse Project.
The birdhouses were sold to raise money for future festivals.
Other highlights included a new mobile app that provided festival-goers with event details and a map, a list of food vendors and ways to provide feedback; and the China Arts Festival, a partnership with the Carolina China Council that emphasized Raleigh’s international ties.
Artsplosure has always been about change, Lanning said. The event, first held in 1979, celebrates “the most talented and creative (artists) and artists who are underexposed in the Triangle,” she said.
“We wanted to bring cool stuff in that you might not see otherwise,” Lanning said.
Dan Nelson’s “Points of View,” which strung 58 portraits of Grand Rapids, Mich., residents on a frame, was surrounded by crowds throughout the festival.
The “artistic montage” created layers that when viewed from “magic squares” taped out on the street revealed hidden “meta-images,” from cityscapes to local celebrities. Nelson said he hoped to drum up interest in doing a similar project for Raleigh.
“I would be camping out downtown for six weeks doing this,” he said.
Man fell hard
Down to Earth, which performed 10 minutes of aerial acrobatics every hour, was another crowd draw.
The group usually performs 16 to 30 feet in the air, according to a booking website. Festival organizers could not Sunday say how far the rigging fell. Group founder Amanda Durnell repeatedly declined to comment.
Red Cross worker Kathy Ellen, who was a few yards away, said the rig hit the man’s arm, knocking him down. He landed on his back with his legs tucked underneath, she said, but didn’t hit his head.
“There were a lot of bystanders that stopped to help,” Ellen said.
Raleigh requires festival organizers, food vendors and service providers who deal directly with the public to have insurance, according to a city policy. The aerial group would not have been required to have insurance, since the equipment wasn’t available to the public.
Lowder said the performers were responsible for setting up and checking their rigs.
Durnell teaches rigging techniques, aerial acrobatics and leads a weekly aerial fitness class, according to the group’s website. She studied aerial fabric and trapeze arts at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont, according to a Facebook page, and also performed at last year’s N.C. State Fair.