In Pittsburgh, some consider it a passage of spring, just like the crocuses coming up. Or, like this year, the snow coming down. No matter the temperature, Art All Night is one cool blast of serious – and not-so-serious – amazing art.
Take "Dancing Queen". It's a washing machine affixed with a mannequin dressed up to be Queen Elizabeth, complete with crown, white gloves and royal blue sash. "Push to agitate," reads the interactive art instructions next to a button that gets the queen twisting back and forth "dancing" to a few different versions of the Abba hit, "Dancing Queen". Oh, yes. You gotta love art. And while the $2,285 price tag of Michael Swenar's "Dancing Queen" seemed kinda laughable, the art was indeed worth that much in laughs alone.
"Why is there a washing machine," asks my seven-year-old grandson, Owen, who made the trip with his family from Ashland, Ohio, specifically to attend Art All Night.
"Why not?" I answer.
The washing machine was just one of many off-kilter materials used by artists for their Art All Night creations. There were kitchen utensils, crocheted plastic bags, concrete, work boots, Etch-a-Sketches, coffee, condoms, gold fleck and, get this, 35mm film.
With artwork like "Burning for You," "We Don't Take the Bus" featuring a naked couple inked by a Sharpie by someone who goes by the name The Dirty Poet, and "Vulvapalooza," the art lives up to the show's tagline: No fee. No jury. No censorship.
But no matter. It's art. And - for the fleeting time it's there - it's amazing. Everyone and anyone is invited to bring one and only one piece of art to display.
SO. MUCH. ART.
While Art All Night stops two hours short of being a 24-hour art show, it doesn't stop short on much else. Consider this: Over 1,000 pieces of original art was on display at the show which began at 4 p.m., Saturday, April 25 and ended 2 p.m. Sunday, April 26. A core group of 52 volunteers and another cadre of 250+ on-site helpers made it happen. Oh, and around 10,000 visitors - give or take a few thousand - turned up for this beloved art event in a way-cool Lawrenceville warehouse that has its own gritty, artistic charm.
Standing in front of one of the scores of panels where the art is hung, I overhear a visitor: "That's like the sixth Roberto Clemente piece of art I've seen so far...Clemente's trending."
Sunday morning is the best time to actually see the art, as there's no crush of people like there is on Saturday night. This year, with kids and grandkids in tow, we didn't make it to the Saturday night crazy that is the party part of Art All Night. Saturday prime time is when there's a line to enter, the free beer flows and the people watching is at its best. We didn't see the flame throwers or hear the midnight drum sounds of Tambeleza, but that's more than ok.
This year, I got to watch an even better show way early Saturday evening. I watched my three-year-old granddaughter, Evia, paint oranges and broccoli to make some pretty interesting stamp art. I watched her cousin Owen play the air guitar while listening to a boy band on stage who was singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' cover, "Californication," while Owen's little sister, Aubrie, was being spun around by Papa Paul. It was family night for a new generation.
Going strong for 18 years, Art All Night is one reason why I moved to Lawrenceville nearly 10 years ago. It's art, and it's more than all right.