Editor-in-Chief and A&E Editor
For Raleigh, North Carolina, the weekend of Sept. 18 was an eventful one as SPARKcon, an annual festival of the arts, was held downtown. During the festival, which took place Friday night and all day Saturday, Fayetteville Street was crowded with participants, onlookers, and numerous food trucks. “SPARKcon is a creativity festival showcasing arts of varying disciplines,” says Erica Porter, lead organizer of fashionSPARK. “Its goal is to introduce the community to the artists. Exposure for our artists is a huge deal for us.”
SPARKcon spans multiple city blocks; these are divided up into sections. These fourteen spaces display different artistic mediums, and each have a separate title beneath the overarching SPARKcon festival. Some of these include artSPARK, danceSPARK, and fashionSPARK. Porter has seen the festival grow over the five years she has been involved: “It went from being in Moore Square to taking over four blocks of Fayetteville St. and three side streets! We had over 55,000 people in attendance this year.”
Many of these thousands of guests journeyed through artSPARK, which comprised of exhibits, workshops, and the ever popular chalk art. Hundreds of five by five feet chalk murals cover three city blocks. Teams of four artists were given the opportunity to sign up and purchase a square; they were then given until 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19 to complete their work before the judging began. A number of Apex High School students signed up to street paint. Juniors Sarah Dunn and Madeline Maier, square number fifty four, even won honorable mention in the high school category. “We wanted to keep it fairly simple considering this was our first time doing chalk art,” says Dunn. “We also wanted to do something super creative and random, and I think an alien fishing for planets is pretty creative.” This was not Dunn’s first time at SPARKcon as last year she watched the acrobatic performances. SPARKcon is composed of many different artistic forms, including dance.
DanceSPARK amazed its viewers this year with a stunning performance by Bandaloop, a group which takes to the air for their routines. Dancers, suspended by cables, danced along the side of a building (Watch their performance here). SPARKcon included many featured performers, such as vocalist Laura Reed, who performed before fashionSPARK’s Wear What You Are fashion show.
FashionSPARK is the biggest and most popular yearly fashion event in the triangle area. This year, it featured jewelry and accessory designers in fashionSPARK’s Jewelry & Accessories Trunk Show, which took place Friday, Sept. 18. “The jewelry trunk show has been a huge success,” tells Porter, “for us and for the jewelry designers.” This setup, which Porter came up with, was different from previous years. However, it seemed like this change paid off. “Exposing the Raleigh community to the fashion designers is also a huge treat. I get so many people that come up to me after the show to tell me how they never knew this talent was in the area,” says Porter. “It's such a good feeling to introduce at least one more person to these amazing fashion designers each year.”
Each year, SPARKcon gets better. Still, Dunn offers tips to make the artSPARK experience even more enjoyable, suggesting participants attend workshops. “The workshops also allowed us to practice our idea and get a feel for working with the chalk. The one thing I wish I remembered was sunscreen. I have a gnarly farmer’s tan now.” It is still a bit early to finish making preparations, but organizers and event planners will start brainstorming for next year soon. “It's too soon to even think about next year!” explains Porter. “My team and I have been throwing around ideas, but nothing is set in stone. We are resting right now and will get together in the next couple of weeks to hang and talk about what went right and what we need to change for next year.”