Arts & Culture

SPARKcon still challenging the conventional notion of ‘arts festival’

There will be plenty of artists’ exhibits and street-painting on display at SPARKcon, but also events focused on comedy, film, music, design and more.
There will be plenty of artists’ exhibits and street-painting on display at SPARKcon, but also events focused on comedy, film, music, design and more.

In its 11th year of spotlighting innovation found throughout the Triangle, SPARKcon continues to change the perception in people’s minds when they hear the words “arts festival.” While there will be plenty of artists’ exhibits and street-painting on display, you’ll need to expand your definition of the concept of art to include all of the areas of expression that the event’s organizers exhibit.

SPARKcon runs through Sunday, and although its major events are centered around downtown Raleigh, a few events are held elsewhere.

With 14 different Sparks happening simultaneously, this is just a sample of some of the activities you can check out. See for the full schedule and venue details.

designSPARK brings together local talent from throughout all areas of design – architecture, interior, graphic and more – to showcase the bright minds that are working behind the scenes of daily life to create many of the features that we take for granted about our cities each day. Teams from firms and organizations from throughout the Triangle will be designing and building “SPARKlets” – mini parks that fit within one parking space – throughout the weekend on West Martin Street.

comedySPARK is bringing back its popular R-Line Bus comedy routines, which features some of the Triangle’s best comedians doing family friendly material between 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturday, as well as a special edition of Raleigh’s own The Dangling Loafer standup showcase at King’s on Friday. In the running for most anticipated event of the festival is swearSPARK, an NCAA-style bracket of 64 filthy words taking place at Crude Bitters & Soda on Saturday night, with the audience crowning one word the greatest of all cusses.

geekSPARK showcases the local creative community’s ability to blend art with new and interactive technology. While there will be plenty of folks lined up at the 3D Printing and Drone exhibitions, perhaps the most important event will be the class held by TechGirlz, the volunteer group actively working toward fueling young girls’ interest in STEM careers. They’ll be at the Red Hat Annex from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.

fashionSPARK puts on its biggest fashion show ever with “Wear What You Are,” featuring local emerging designers, including Keely Lauren Cansler. The show is free, but you can purchase premium tickets, which get you into a pre-party (7 p.m.). The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday at CAM Raleigh. ArtsNow NC sponsors an after-party at Five Star right after the show.

theatreSPARK brings with it the most unexpected performances of SPARKcon. Pop-ups are surprise renditions by actors of a scene or two from plays. They can happen anywhere within the barriers of the festival itself, whether on a random sidewalk or on the stool next to you at the bar.

litSPARK will take us back to the days before blogs with both a Zine Making class, hosted by Triangle Printed Matter, as well as a Zine Library curated by Carrboro’s Zinesboro.

tastySPARK will bring three days of food truck rodeos to downtown Friday through Sunday. It’s still going to be hot, so enjoy some Two Roosters Ice Cream while the weather permits.


What: SPARKcon

When: Through Sunday

Where: Across downtown Raleigh

Cost: Free