Connecting a City with its Creative Ecosystem

Connecting a City with its Creative Ecosystem

SPARKcon is a an annual 4-day festival Positive Company created in 2006, and it has grown each year since. SPARKcon is designed to be a 100% volunteer creative festival with hundreds of volunteer visionaries and organizers, more than 2,000 creative talent in 200+ events with over 100,000 people attending the downtown area to enjoy it.

PROBLEM

Firmly invested in the creative community of our home city, Raleigh NC, we determined the need for SPARKcon after hosting many creative ideation sessions with community members about the futures we all wanted for Raleigh and for NC. We saw that there was outward excitement and momentum for the technology scene of the area, but the larger creative scene went somewhat unnoticed. The creative community was fragmented and disconnected and the whole city was losing because this vibrant community was underground and under-appreciated. We were inspired by Richard Florida’s ideas of that time, about the creative class being essential to the ultimate economic success of a city, and we decided to do something.

SOLUTION

Putting a stake in the ground to claim Raleigh as “The Creative Hub of the South,” SPARKcon was created as a 4 day festival to showcase Raleigh’s incredible and diverse creative talents as well as to foster a supportive community for all of these talented people to bolster and learn from one another.

When you think of a festival that celebrates local creativity, your first thought is probably of arts and crafts, live music and delicious festival food. While all of these wonderful things are present, SPARKcon takes the celebration several steps further by including fashion, comedy, circus, poetry, dance, graffiti, design, ideation, technology and more. Some events are showcases and much is also participatory. 

The first few years of SPARKcon, the overriding statements of the public were along the lines of “I didn’t know we had all of this in Raleigh!” SPARKcon’s success is most obvious in how that statement has changed and now the public takes pride in the breadth of creative talent on offer, and comes to see what is new, or to volunteer and get involved with whichever facet they are passionate about.

A Brand That Holds It All Together

SPARKcon is an intentionally loose festival. Each year, the programming of the festival is designed by the volunteers who participate. Each “SPARK” is it’s own group designing their own events. Because of this looseness, and the huge number of people involved in organizing it each year, the BRAND had to be the thing that held it all together. Each SPARK is given it’s own sub-name, sub-logo, and sub-primary color. Each group designs their own marketing materials with stringent brand standards in place to ensure consistency and high level brand identity.

A Powerful and Flexible Website

The SPARKcon website was designed as a powerful marketing and scheduling  tool as well as internal planning tool. For 6 months of the year, the main SPARKcon site is there to promote the event and find planning volunteers, sponsors and talent contributors. There is an element of the site behind the scenes for all of the SPARKS to schedule their meetings, establish their visions and access all the branding materials. Shortly before the actual event, the public SPARKcon site changes to a full schedule of events, divided by SPARK, by date and by location. There is also a SPARKcon app for the 4 days of the festival.

Each year, the overall campaign theme changes, along with the website and marketing materials.

An Open-Source Intention for Positive Impact

SPARKcon is designed to impact the community in a positive way, and to grow and change as the community grows and changes. From the very first SPARKcon, this intention has been ingrained in the very fabric of the festival. As a part of year one, we did a series of creative facilitations with the public. We then published the results of those facilitations by taking out full-page ads in The Independent. These results are still applicable today and we reference them regularly to help guide creative momentum of the city. Some of the results, titled the SPARKcon Comment, have had very direct impact on the city, the most obvious one being the future facilitations for the design of City Plaza in downtown Raleigh.

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