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Sparking the Triangle 

If the artists and the suits start talking, who knows what'll start to fly?

We're just days away from the inaugural Spark Con, which runs Sept. 14-17, and I am psyched. One reason is, I'm very curious to hear what people will say about Raleigh's (and the Triangle's) creativity quotient. We rank so high on so many lists, you'd think we're a lock to be the next (fill in the blank--Silicon Valley? Seattle?). But if we are, we're gonna need more flavors in our vanilla, and a lot better mixing of our various chocolates and mochas. IMHO.

But I digress. The big reason I'm psyched is something Katrina Lamberto, Spark Con's "minister of information," said at an organizers' meeting two weeks ago. If Spark Con was starting tomorrow, Lamberto said, "it'd be great."

When she said it, I felt myself relax (and I don't think I was the only one, incidentally), because I knew it was finally, decisively true. There'd been so many meetings for so many months, and so many plans had been made--and hatched, and dropped, and modified. And with my own spotty attendance as an observer, I was always in some doubt about what was the latest--and how it was all going. But with the end in sight, even though a ton of details are still TBD, Katrina's right--it's going.

You wanted an art show? Spark Con's got Image Slam, thanks to Lia Newman of Artspace, with 86 artists (at last count) showing their stuff on the giant movie screen in Moore Square.

You wanted movies? Marsha and Devin Orgeron, who teach film at NCSU, have arranged a smorgasbord of short films on Thursday night, capped by the world premiere of Friendly Fire, by and featuring the music world's Sean Lennon. (Is Sean coming? Not so far ....)

Oh, you wanted actual music. Spark Con's got MusicSpark at the Lincoln Theater, with World Party, Tres Chicas and others on the bill Friday night and Little Brother and The Hall of Justus doing their thing on Saturday. Credit Carrie Colliton of Music Monitor Network and Neu-Romance DJ Chico Scott--they're the ones I've met, anyway.

For the serious-minded, there's a "Lab Crawl," organized by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. And for the seriously dressed, there's FashionSpark. I missed some meetings, and the next time I came, creative director Marie Cordella was describing a fully realized clothes and body-art event that sounds like it could be the highlight of the weekend.

Anyway, I've given it the absolute once-over, and I encourage you to check out for the schedules and evolving detail. I especially encourage those of you who are my contemporaries or thereabouts (I'm 56 now--aach!), have never heard of Sean Lennon (he's John's son), and know The Hall of Justus's work only because you were careful readers of Grayson Currin's story about them in the Indy ("Little Brother mans up," Oct. 5, 2005,

I say this because the point of Spark Con is to start a conversation between us older folk--collectively, the region's repository of whatever wisdom exists here--and the Triangle's next generation of creative leaders.

And more than just young and old, the goal is a meeting of the minds between people who paint in studios and the ones who work in labs, and in business, and in government--because believe me, in business or government today, the creative juices had better be flowing, or you're just screwed.

That's the real heart of Spark Con, a series of workshops, with speakers like Ping Fu, the Chinese émigré who started the high-tech firm Geomagic in RTP and was named Inc. magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year, or Arthur Gordon, the always-creative owner of Irregardless restaurant, or Bill Thelen, Lump Gallery's director.

One purpose, then, of the art show, music show and the rest is to turn out the artsy crowd. Which it's doing--the artists are coming.

The other purpose is, of course, to show off for the business crowd and the politics crowd and the college administrators crowd who need to be there, too, talking and listening.

Can you just see them all discussing the pros and cons of Jaume Plensa's artistic vision? Or figuring out how more music halls in downtown Raleigh could lead to more high-tech startups for the Triangle?

Spark Con got its start in the creative collective called DesignBox, where some people engineer better products and others make better Web sites, or (like Katrina) organize better meetings. It's also an art gallery, located at 315 S. Bloodworth St., Raleigh. To learn everything there is to know about Spark Con, visit DesignBox this Friday, Sept. 1--First Friday--all night. Spark Con's 18 posters (yes!) will be on sale, as will conference registrations for $40.

A SXSE for Raleigh?

In addition to the formal workshops, some folks are planning to talk informally about turning this year's MusicSpark into next year's--well, they don't like to say SXSE, but the old SXSW (South by Southwest) music fest in Austin, Texas, is generally considered to have gotten too big for its breeches. And what better place than Raleigh for the next Big Music Thing?

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