SPARKcon is seeking money for this year’s downtown Raleigh festival

SPARKcon is sending out an S.O.S.

The 13th edition of the free arts festival, which is one of downtown Raleigh’s signature fall events, faces increased expenses as well as dwindling financial support from sponsors.

So a “Save SPARKcon” crowd-funding campaign started up Thursday. The Visual Art Exchange, the nonprofit that produces SPARKcon, is seeking to raise $22,500 to rescue this year’s festival, and there’s not a lot of time.

It’s scheduled Sept. 13-16, just over a month from now. The event features interactive programming that includes live music, street art, dance, design and film at different venues across downtown. Each category of programming is considered a “Spark.”

“Costs keep going up, drastically,” said Brandon Cordrey, executive director of Visual Art Exchange. Cordrey pointed to new regulations that have raised costs for everything from security to portable bathrooms.

“None of this is malicious or bad, but it adds up fast,” Cordrey said. “And sponsorships have always come in last-minute, but it’s been alarmingly slow this year. So our options were to reach out to the public, or slash it down to the budget we’re at now.”

The slash-down option would be to shrink the event from four days down to one. Another option would be moving it out of downtown. Cordrey said he’s been in touch with the owner of a “giant parking lot” in case it comes to that.

Last year’s budget was $84,000, which Cordrey said they’ve slashed to $65,299. Of the $22,500 they’re trying to raise, they were at $2,800 from 44 people at midday Friday.

One of the contributors was Sarah Powers, VAE’s former director who is now executive director of the Office of Raleigh Arts. Powers, who ran SPARKcon for a decade, chipped in $100.

“I admire what everybody’s doing over there, and I hope everybody will let them know the event is valuable,” Powers said. “It’s a challenging event to put on, and I’d like to think the community will be supportive. It has awesome attendance, looks great when you’re there.”

SPARKcon began in Moore Square in 2006, an event attended by several hundred people. From there, it has mushroomed into a huge event.

Last year’s SPARKcon drew a reported 84,000 people, in a month when Hopscotch Music Festival and World of Bluegrass also drew big crowds. As to what size it will be in 2018, that will depend on how the crowd-funding goes.

“If every person who came to SPARKcon last year threw a dollar into a bucket, we’d be fine,” Cordrey said. “Maybe people in the community are passionate enough to throw in some money. If not, maybe it’s time to reimagine SPARKcon so that it is important enough to the community to support.”

To contribute to the campaign, go to gofundme.com/save-sparkcon.

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