The story of how Art All Night came to the District almost sounds like a fairytale. At least the beginnings of it, before the nitty-gritty of getting this landmark event from the discussion stage to physical actuality began. See, it started with one woman and an idea….
Once upon a time, Ariana Austin was living in Paris and she attended an all-night cultural event called Nuit Blanche. “I thought, ‘this is unreal!," she said. "Museums were open all night and there were all these activated spaces – like public spaces – that were transformed by art. So, when I came back to DC, I had this loose idea to bring a small, sort of petit Nuit Blanche to Washington.” And come this Saturday, when the event kicks off at 7 p.m., we’re all about to live a little more happily ever after. Of course, there’s a lot that went on in-between. Here’s the rest of the story:
SCOUT: DC is a town full of ideas, but I’d say 75 percent of the time, they just kind of stay in someone’s head. What pushed you to act on such a big concept?
ARIANA: While it could’ve totally been one of those ideas, like “Oh yeah, I once had this idea,” everybody I met with helped push it along…the director of the Arts Commission under Fenty, Gloria Nauden…the French Embassy…and Shaw Main Streets, a revitalization neighborhood organization that uses all kinds of initiatives, not just arts and culture, to revive the neighborhood just above Chinatown. And the director had been to Nuit Blanche so he wanted to do it.
SCOUT: So, with all that interest, how big is this “small” affair going to be?
ARIANA: There are 20 spaces being curated all by different entities. Which is cool because you get this sort of “best of” impression. They’ve taken these spaces and really made them their own. Half are being curated by our cultural partners and for the other half we did an artist call.
SCOUT: Not that I want to make you feel like a mom being asked to pick a favorite kid, but are their any venues that definitely should not be missed?
ARIANA: Well, some of them are totally abandoned spaces, so one cool one is the Wonderbread Factory, which is a Douglas Development property that Alliance Française, Art Soiree and the Embassy of Spain are curating together. They’ve got DJs, visual arts, live performance, all this stuff going on. They’ve got a bar there. And then there’s the Shaw Library. The basement is going to be this fashion show. And there are galleries that will be open, like Touchstone, Pepco’s Edison Gallery, Civilian Art Projects. Bloombars is doing an all-night independent film festival…
SCOUT: OK, I’ll stop you there before we exceed our word limit. Clearly, that was an unfair question.
ARIANA: Yeah, we’ve got a lot going on. It’s so much. It’s a cultural mash-up and we want people to see everything. I mean, it’s walkable, it’s just between 7th and 9th Streets [NW], but there are three metro stops to break it up – Shaw Library, Mt. Vernon, and Chinatown.
SCOUT: With that much going on, how much work was this to put together, is it even countable at this point?
ARIANA: How much I’ve worked on this, like time-wise? Wow. That’s hilarious. It’s not even close to countable at this point. The sheer amount of work just in the logistics. It was kind of a surprise. While I’m not curating anything, I’m just the manager, there’s a lot to do. It’s like a second job, especially since January, which is when we got to the grind.
SCOUT: Yikes! That’s like nine months ago… this really is your baby!
ARIANA: I know! But that’s how long it takes. Who knew it would be so much work for 8 hours of continuous programming...
SCOUT: The French?
ARIANA: It’s actually funny. I was reading about the first year of Nuit Blanche in Paris and it started with 20 venues.
Coincidence or awesome foretelling of what Art All Night DC can become? If Ariana’s behind it, I for one, would bet on the latter. But enough about the future when the now is yet to even come. Check out Art All Night this Saturday and check in to the venues using Foursquare or Facebook. The more you hit, the better chance you’ll have at winning a couple tickets to Cirque du Soleil. Icing on the gâteau.