Artsplosure. The Raleigh Arts Festival has signaled the start of spring in Raleigh for nearly 40 years, but do you know the reality behind Raleigh’s “Art for All” festival?

Nearly four decades ago, Raleigh’s arts scene needed opportunities to expose emerging and established arts groups to broader audiences. To fill that need, the Raleigh Arts Commission brought Artsplosure to life, and since then, Artsplosure — the Raleigh Arts Festival — has become an annual notable experience that produces high-quality, accessible performing and visual arts.

In it’s history, Artsplosure has put on dozens of events, including the popular First Night Raleigh and the Jazz & Blue Music Festival plus a series of Arts Alive on Lichtin Plaza.

But even with longstanding history, some still have some aspects of the festival wrong. ArtsNow met up with Cameron Laws, marketing director at Artsplosure, to set some of these misconceptions straight, plus get the insider’s scoop on what will come to Raleigh May 19th – 21st on Fayetteville St. in Downtown Raleigh.  

Cameron Laws, Artsplosure

Misconception: Artsplosure is hosted by the city. Reality: Artsplosure (and sister event First Night Raleigh) are produced by the non-profit Artsplosure, a 501(c)3. The City of Raleigh helps with funding based on the recommendation of the Raleigh Arts Commission. Artsplosure also receives operating support from the North Carolina Arts Council.

Misconception: Artsplosure is organized by a large team (callers ask for IT and HR departments). Reality: Staff of three, one part-time employee and a few contractors. Plus more than 300 volunteers!

Misconception: Artsplosure is a ticketed event. Reality: Artsplosure is always a free event. The concerts, art market, interactive art and more are free and open to the public. Occasional experiences request modest and accessible admission costs, like the 12,000 square foot Katena luminarium being brought from the UK for this year’s festival.

Visitors experience Katena, Robin Easton

Laws believes that the held assumption of Artsplosure as a ticketed event is the result of a high caliber line-up of artists performing at the event. Must-see performers this year include: Stax records legend William Bell, NPR Tiny Desk winners Tank & The Bangas, Seratones and North Carolina favorite Phil Cook. But all of the music is killer. You can even preview the music via this Artsplosure 2017 Spotify Playlist.

Another notable aspect of Artsplosure: the free festival successfully compensates all of the participating artists. This way, everyone is valued.

Joy Goldsberry is one of the many standout volunteers who helps out before, during and after the festival. “I volunteer for the satisfaction of helping a great organization, working with creative and talented people and mostly, I volunteer because its just so FUN!” he said.

Laws understands this dedication. She herself is also a volunteer for Girls Rock NC, an organization that teaches youth how to play guitar and perform original compositions. And when she’s not teaching guitar and connecting with others, she’s tapping into an assortment of her own artistic skills.

Her acknowledgement of the power of providing art for all began during her college freshman and sophomore years living and working in the first Arts Village and learning community at NC State. That experience continues to influence her work, as she now collaborates with many Arts Village alums via their own roles in Raleigh’s professional creative community. She advocates for the “Art for All” mentality in both her own practice and in the professional world with Artsplosure, which is why she’s fit for the marketing role.

Thirty years later, the original need for platforms and events has certainly been met. Festivals such as Artsplosure and Raleigh’s MAIN Events, presenting a different festival each weekend in the September, signifies this but now the Raleigh’s creative sector has reached a new pivot point, one with new needs. What are they to you?

Organizational resources like Artsplosure, VAE Raleigh and Kidznotes, along with other non-profits, for-profits and governmental agencies like the Raleigh Arts Commission or the City of Raleigh Office of Arts, are ready to act.

It’s a good time to be in Raleigh: a city that expresses art for all.  

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