Guide to Visiting Artsplosure: Raleigh’s #1 Arts Festival

Artsplosure is a vibrant Raleigh arts festival that takes place over two days in the month of May every year (May 20-21 in 2023).

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Artsplosure on Fayettevile Street

This art event is where artists of all forms can come together to share their craft, whether they’re a musician, a performer, jewellery maker, ceramicist or photographer – it’s the best place to get exposure to emerging local and national artists. 

It is an inclusive celebration of the city’s artistic diversity, where visitors can immerse themselves in a vibrant display of creativity and watch exceptional entertainment. 

A large cardboard cutout sign that says RALEIGH
Downtown Raleigh

This year, Artsplosure Raleigh is being held on the 20th and 21st May which will showcase an art market, a stage with live music featuring national and regional performances, and arts and craft workshops.

Band playing on a stage on a city street
Live entertainment too!

If you’re thinking of visiting Artsposure but not sure what to see or do there, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about one of the biggest festivals in Raleigh.

What is Artsplosure?

Woman taking a photo of colorful giant balls in a city street

Artsplosure is an annual arts festival in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s a celebration of creativity and community, with a focus on giving local and national artists a platform to showcase their work. 

Since its first event in 1980, Artsplosure has been one of the biggest and most popular Raleigh events, drawing in people from all over the city and beyond and one of the cool things to do in May.

People at a festival in a city center
Large crowd in attendance in 2022

It began as the brainchild of the City of Raleigh Arts Commission who first started planning the event in 1978, and has been happening every year since.

Although known for its namesake annual Art Festival, Artsplosure have several events throughout the year. 

In the past, they have been responsible for the African American Cultural Festival, Destination Dix Festival, First Night Raleigh, Jazz & Blue Music Festival, J. Cole’s Dreamville Music Festival, IBM’s Wide Open Bluegrass, and Live & Local Hillsborough Street.

Lady looking at art displays inside a tent
Cool artwork is on display

In 2023, you can expect to see 175 visual artists from across the U.S. who have been selected to showcase their work at the festival.

This Raleigh art festival is not only a place where the community can come together and celebrate art, but is is also a competition, where cash prizes and awards are given to participating artists at the end of the festival.

Artists have the opportunity to win $1,250 for the Best in Show Award, $750 for Judge’s Choice, $500 for Merit Awards (two winners) or $250 for an Honorable Mention (two winners). The awards are given to any artist from any category.

Food truck in a city street
Food trucks too!

The artists are an eclectic mix, each with an expertise in a different medium of art, whether that be glass work, fiber art, jewelry making, sculpting, painting, metal work, or even Tech and Digital Art which will be introduced in 2023’s event.

There is also a main stage where live performances take place throughout the two-day event. And if you have kids, the festival also has a free arts and crafts workshops at Kidsplosure.

What’s Happening at Artsplosure?

People listening to a band on a stage in a city center

This year’s Artsplosure will be held over the course of the weekend and each day will feature a lineup of exciting events and activities for visitors of all ages. The full line up of artists and events are still to be released, but here’s what you can expect.

(Art Market) Saturday 20th May – Sunday 21st May 

Giant colorful balls on a city street for an arts festival

The first day kicks off at 11.00am-7pm where the 175 market stalls open to the public. Swing by to see artists showcase their work and even pick up a souvenir or two. Sunday is from 10:00am-6:00pm.

Hours:

  • Saturday: 11am – 7pm
  • Sunday: 10am-6pm
  • NOTE:  the Art Market will be open from 10:00 am – 11:00 am (Sunday) specifically for patrons with accessibility needs.

Installations

There will be Multiple DJs spinning over the two days and an immersive art installation. And on the day of the event a Secret Silent Disco will be announced.

You can step into the song confessional and provide an anonymous confession on the spot to be recorded. Today’s top bands and songwriters turn anonymous stories into new original songs. 

An interactive art installation called You Matter will be there in collaboration with Darkness Rising that acknowledges the importance of mental health awareness in the Black community. Festival goers can write words of affirmation to themselves onto mirrored letters that show their reflection.

Four art-covered pickle ball courts will be available where you can rent paddles and balls. This immersive experience combines art and athleticism.

Entertainment (Live Music)

Band signing on stage at a festival

Throughout the two-day event on Fayetteville Street in the heart of downtown Raleigh, live music and entertainment will take place on the main stage throughout the day.

There will be 12 performances across the stage over the weekend, starting at 11am on Saturday and Sunday.

You will also find street painters, who create beautiful chalk masterpieces on the streets. In many cases, artists invite you to participate, so don’t be shy to pick up a brush or piece of chalk and add to this buzzing event.

Kidsplosure

Families should make sure to head over to Kidsplosure, where you will find a section of the festival dedicated to children’s activities and entertainment.

People enjoying an arts festival
Kidsplosure in 2022

Kidsplosure is free and all about the kids including musical performances, a magic show, and tons of crafts including paper marbling, foam soap prints, community weaving and so much more!

The Details

  • Where: Downtown Raleigh, Fayetteville Street
  • Time: Saturday 11:00am – 7:00pm, Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm
  • Dates: May 20 – 21 2023
  • Free to enter.
  • Food trucks and vendors accept cash and credit options.
  • There is an “Artist hospitality station” where you can meet the artists and get refreshments.
  • Parking will be available in nearby parking lots, but attendees are encouraged to take public transportation, bike, or walk to the event as parking can get crowded.
  • If you don’t want to drive, there will be a designated drop-off point by the south side of City Plaza, opposite the Marriott Hotel 
  • Website: Artsplosure.org

FAQs about Artsplosure Raleigh

Is Artsplosure a rain or shine event? 

Yes, Artsplosure is held regardless of weather conditions.

Are there any restrictions on what I can bring? 

Weapons, drugs, and outside alcohol are not permitted at Artsplosure.

Is Artsplosure accessible friendly?

Yes, the festival takes place on Fayetteville Street which is flat and paved, which is suitable for wheelchair users, families with strollers, or those with mobility issues.

Final Thoughts

Artsplosure is truly a unique and exciting event that shouldn’t be missed. From local art to music and street performances, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

So come on out and be a part of one of Raleigh’s biggest celebrations of creativity and community!

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