Sept. 11–14
Downtown Raleigh

Even though SPARKcon launches its ninth year on Sept. 11, there are still folks who don’t quite get it. If you ask Chase Bryan, the so-called SPARKboss of the event, the confusion stems from there being no other event quite like it.

“It’s completely the opposite of any other festival, in terms of who drives it,” she says of its bottom-up organization structure. “The volunteers decide what they want to do, how to do it and how to pay for it. Our job is to say ‘Great, how can we help you?’”

SPARKcon, which runs through Sunday, aims to harness and highlight the varied, robust creative energies present in the Triangle. That’s why, as Bryan suggests, it’s a grassroots effort, led by those who create art in all its glorious forms.

“Nobody knows better than they do, they are part of the community,” she says.

The annual “interdisciplinary creativity, art & design festival” (as its website calls it) is produced by the Raleigh-based Visual Art Exchange, a nonprofit that supports emerging artists. The weekend features 13 themes, with more than 2,000 artistscrafters and photographers, clothing designers and tech geeks, aerialists and filmmakerssharing their talents in more than 200 shows and exhibits in downtown Raleigh.

Bryan, VAE’s community art and event manager, says that this year’s themes, or “sparks,” are the same as last year’s, but there are new elements within several of them. DanceSPARK will feature Zumba Glow, the popular dance fitness workout done at night with glow sticks. “It’s like a rave meets Zumba,” says Bryan.

Parkour, the French-born acrobatic obstacle course discipline, will have a bigger presence in CircusSPARK. The results of the 48-Hour FilmSPARK challenge will be screened Saturday on the Fayetteville Street main stage.

And DesignSPARK‘s popular interactive Capital Cartography project will be mapping personal Raleigh memorieswhere attendants were born or, perhaps, had their first kiss.

Design creatives have already gotten a healthy dose of love this month courtesy of last week’s Hopscotch Design Festival. VAE executive director Sarah Powers notes that there’s no reason to not attend both. Indeed, the events are complementary; Hopscotch Design was more like a conference with speakers, while DesignSPARK is a showcase of design talent and a chance for attendees to try out their own skills.

“There’s room for collaboration and for those collaborations to grow,” she says. “It’s always a good thing when our community gets to shine.”

This article appeared in print with the headline “Electric and eclectic”