If you're only into music, it might feel like the festival season is winding down after Hopscotch. But if you're a fan of the arts more generally, you're just getting started. Here is a small sample of the best autumn gatherings where you can do a lot in one go.
CENTERFEST ARTS FESTIVAL (Sep. 16 & 17, downtown Durham) Standing alongside SPARKcon (see below) as a gateway to fall, the Durham Arts Council's free annual street party for art, music, and food is coming up this very weekend. Though it's a four-decade-plus institution, it's far from stagnant, growing with Durham's local art scene. Last year enjoyed record-setting attendance of more than thirty thousand; this year the festival extends its reach, with music drifting into the night at CCB Plaza and Bull McCabe's Irish Pub. And while CenterFest draws artists, vendors, and artisans from far and wide, this year it also introduces a new Durham Arts Village to spotlight local nonprofits, vendors, and makers.
SPARKCON (Sep. 14–17, downtown Raleigh) Jugglers, hoopers, magicians, poets, musicians, filmmakers, designers, comedians, chefs—oh my! Dream of anything you can imagine in arts and culture and you'll find it at SPARKcon, Raleigh's freewheeling annual "creativity festival." Whereas the city-run CenterFest is top-down, SPARKcon is grassroots, filling venues and street sites with artist-created "sparks," or programming tracks, for four days. Search by spark at the festival's website or just plunge into the melee and discover something new.
WAKE FOREST DANCE FESTIVAL (Sep. 30, E. Carroll Joyner Park) This first-time outing inspires confidence in that it's directed by a former member of Martha Graham Dance Company and features a couple of performers from that legendary troupe to boot. It's a free, city-funded outdoor dance festival featuring professional dancers from the region and the nation as well as top-level local indie talent. Mini-performances spotlighting different kinds of dance take place throughout Joyner Park all day, leading to a staged performance in the evening. Some of the featured local artists include Renay Aumiller, Manuel Barriga, and Gaspard Louis.
CLICK! 120 (Oct. 4–8, Triangle-wide) For several years now, the Click! Photography Festival has filled area galleries and museums with photography exhibits each October, with almost too much range and scope for the center to hold. That's why the addition of Click! 120 this year is wise and welcome: it's a five-day intensive that serves as a great entry point into what the larger festival has to offer, with keynote speeches, portfolio reviews, workshops, tours, panels, artist talks, and exhibit openings.
NC COMICON: BULL CITY (Nov. 10–12, Durham Convention Center) We can be heroes, just for three days, as the Triangle's largest comic book convention returns to the Durham Convention Center (it also has a second annual show in Raleigh in the spring). Want to meet Klaus Janson, who worked with Frank Miller on his deathless Daredevil run, or Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, who branched out into comics post-Run-D.M.C.? You can also just gawk at cosplayers, if you don't actually collect comics, or put a second mortgage on your house, if you do. (P.S., if you prefer slightly more highbrow reading, consider the West End Poetry Festival, which returns to the Carrboro Century Center Oct. 18–21 and features a wide variety of regional poets, to be announced.)