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SPARKcon & Me

1185642_674036762618170_103831597_nSeptember in Raleigh means SPARKcon is back! SPARKcon is a festival of interdisciplinary creativity, art & design produced by the non-profit creativity incubator, Visual Art Exchange, in Raleigh NC. Founded in 2006 by Aly and Beth Khalifa, who also founded Designbox, this year marks the 8th annual event and will be held Sept. 12-15 in downtown Raleigh.  Artspace will have a booth at bazaarSPARK on Sunday, September 15 from 12pm-5pm.  Stop by to see a printstallation by artist and current Regional Emerging Artist-in-Residence Jaclyn Bowie, purchase crafts made in part by kids from our Outreach Programs, and meet our dynamite staff! 

My SPARKcon story begins in October 2006, the year I moved to Raleigh  just after the first annual SPARKcon took place. My boss at the time said if I wanted to get involved with the local art community, I needed to volunteer for SPARKcon.  It was a much smaller event then, and I began by volunteering at the street painting registration tent. Seven years later, I now serve as a SPARKcon Bobblehead, assisting the current group of organizers and helping to organize the festival as a whole.


SPARKcon is based on an open source model; this made it very easy for me to transition from being a volunteer to organizing a SPARK.  If you want to start something, you just do it.  I saw a need for photographers to be better represented, so along with a few other dedicated people, we began photoSPARK in 2010. photoSPARK still exists today as a component of artSPARK and it makes me smile to know that I had a hand in it (check out the analog film show at the Pour House this weekend!).  From there, I assisted with the overall artSPARK programs for several years before transitioning to my current role as a Bobblehead.  As a member of the artSPARK team I helped bring interactive art events, art exhibits, graffiti, and photography to SPARKcon.


Most people who attend SPARKcon don’t realize that it is organized and run completely by volunteers. Each SPARK raises money independently to put on their events and pay their talent; the organizers do not get paid.  We do it because we love Raleigh and the Triangle, we love creativity, and we love sharing that love with everyone else.

Our favorite thing to hear is, “I was at SPARKcon last year and thought it would be cool to have _________, so I decided to get involved this year as an organizer.”

All it takes is one idea (one SPARK, if you will) to enable SPARKcon to provide new and innovative events, exhibits, and programs every year. This year will feature a giant sandworm sculpture in celebration of the movie Beetlejuice’s 25th anniversary, roving theater performances, and a special presentation of swearSPARK, an adults only event designed to crown the king of all swear words!

I hope to see you this weekend at SPARKcon and maybe next year as an organizer…..

About Mary Kay Kennedy

Development & Communications Manager

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