What Is SPARKcon?
photo by Cheryl Gottschall
SPARKcon is a showcase of creativity, talent and ideas of “The Creative Hub of the South,” the Triangle of NC.
SPARKcon was founded in 2006 by Beth and Aly Khalifa and Designbox to showcase, celebrate and influence the creative momentum of the Triangle region of North Carolina. SPARKcon uses an open-source organizational approach to empower diverse creative thinkers to be inspiring community leaders.
SPARKcon is a program of Visual Art Exchange, a Raleigh non-profit whose mission is to support emerging artists and connect the community to the arts.
SPARKcon’s “creative potluck” of SPARKs or creative themes such as art, music, film, fashion, geek, circus, etc. is put together by passionate individuals who volunteer their expertise and are deeply embedded in a specific local scene. Using a combination of networking and open calls for participants, organizers create diverse and representative events to show off local talent and connect disparate creative scenes. SPARKcon grows every time a new person gets involved with a SPARK category, creating their own event, or joining in to help an existing one. It’s an open-source, “for the people, by the people” approach with an intentionally dynamic focus.
September 2012 will be our seventh annual SPARKcon. We’re still a loose association of volunteers open to any passionate individual or group who wants to get involved. We’re still grass roots—our money comes from our pockets and the pockets of others excited to support local creativity. The ideas and showcases come from inspired people who have the ingenuity to say “What if…?” and the motivation to then help make it happen.
Each year, we have over 50 organizers, hundreds of local talents are showcased, hundreds of volunteers helping behind the scenes and thousands of attendees. All of these people equal SPARKcon.
What Inspires a Creative Community?
By several accounts the Triangle has become one of the most creative places to live in the country. We boast exceptional talent on a wide ﬁeld—from pharmaceutical patents to rock bands. But ask a local what the identity of the Triangle is, and you’ll ﬁnd a creative person struggling for an answer. We believe it is a modest step to claim this area as the “Creative Hub the South.” To claim an identity requires us to adhere to it as well. Furthermore, it should inspire us to purposefully nurture and grow the Creative Hub we claim to be. How do we do that? SPARKcon.
Igniting the Creative Hub of the South
Put lots of creative people together in one room, give them a common mission, and the ideas fly fast and furiously. All told, the four workshops held in September of 2006 filled 60 big pages of flipchart paper. But in the end, some core ideas and common themes emerged as essential for the Triangle to earn the distinction “Creative Hub of the South.”
Top 10 recommendations from our community on how to ignite the spark:
- Foster a vibrant urban core featuring a diverse mix of interests, ethnicity, and ages
- Increase focus on green spaces that allows people to enjoy the environment
- Develop safer pedestrian and bicycle activity to encourage people to explore
- Create dynamic public spaces where arts and technology can intermingle
- Support collectives as incubators of creativity
- Develop an information hub to publicly promote all creative activities from new patents to gallery shows
- Encourage programs to foster emerging talent of all types—from small shops and restaurants to artists and inventors
- Regularly exhibit and celebrate home grown talent of all kinds in public projects
- Improve public transit infrastructure to bring people to public squares, urban cores, and green spaces
- Promote tolerance and gain insight from our many different backgrounds
See more detailed workshop recommendations from the community in this downloadable the PDF of the SparkCon Comment 2006 (3.5MB) as published in the Independent Weekly.
“Creativity can be a new idea. It can be an old idea with new context. It can be a couple of ideas in a different synergy to what people thought before. I can tell you that it not only takes passion, it also takes perseverance to get things done. You can have a great idea, but unless you are willing to pursue it and make it happen, it often doesn’t happen.”
—Mayor Charles Meeker, introducing SPARKcon keynote speaker, Ping Fu.
September 14, 2006