What to Expect at Artsplosure – The Raleigh Arts Festival 2024

Artsplosure – The Raleigh Arts Festival returns for 45th year.

Imagine this: The sun is shining, the streets are buzzing and Downtown Raleigh is bursting with creativity as Artsplosure – The Raleigh Arts Festival hits the streets May 18–19 to celebrate 45 years of artistic innovation, cultural diversity and immersive activities. Sounds like the perfect picture, no?!

Raleigh’s longest-running arts festival, Artsplosure has become a staple event in the city’s cultural calendar, continuously developing and evolving alongside the ever-changing nature of art itself.

“It’s really meant to encompass all arts,” says Artsplosure Marketing Manager Bree Petrillo. “Artsplosure does a really great job of highlighting creatives who are really relevant and legendary in all art mediums—not just the main stage and not just our visual artists, but it’s kind of a celebration of all mediums.”

Since the very first fest in April 1980, Artsplosure has been the ultimate art party host, bringing together hundreds of talented artists—both seasoned pros and fresh faces—ranging from the visual arts to music performers to interactive installations. 

Kids participate in activities at a Kidsplosure booth during a previous Artsplosure – Raleigh Arts Festival.

At the heart of it all, the art market features over 175 juried artists from across the country. Visitors to the festival can explore a diverse range of mediums, including ceramics, glass, fiber art, jewelry, painting and more. The showcase allows not only the opportunity to connect with the artists themselves, but acquire original works of art. 

But Artsplosure is more than just an art market. The festival also celebrates performing artists, with this year’s main stage lineup featuring the avant-garde jazz sounds of Sun Ra Arkestra and the eclectic fusion of Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, a nod to the fest’s original jazz roots. 

“The music piece of Artsplosure used to be jazz-oriented, which I always think is interesting,” says Petrillo. “We have really diversified our music lineups to reflect the changing times, and even though we have some pretty jazz-heavy headliners this year, it’s not your traditional jazz. It’s very cutting-edge, very new-age—and I think Sun Ra is such a different sound than when you typically think of standard jazz.” 

In addition to the headliners, expect performances by Charly Lowry, Cha Wa and Squonk Opera—just to name a few—the latter of which is also bringing their larger-than-life Hand to Hand installation feat. two giant puppet hands for a unique sensory experience. Plus, don’t miss out on the Song Confessional traveling podcast in which anonymous confessions inspire original songs (!). 

For the kids, Kidsplosure offers a vibrant space dedicated to young artists and art enthusiasts. From musical performances to magic shows to a variety of crafts, Kidsplosure ensures the spirit of creativity is alive and thriving in the next generation.

Collectively with all its diverse offerings and inclusive programming, Artsplosure continues to draw upon and write Raleigh’s identity while keeping art accessible to all. “There’s really no other festival like it in North Carolina,” emphasizes Petrillo. So, mark your calendar and get ready to immerse yourself in a weekend of art, music and endless inspiration. Let’s get this party arted!

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.