D.C.’s Art All Night Brings 24 Hours of Unconventional Creativity

Searchlights and men twirling cardboard arrow signs heralded visitors Saturday to Art All Night: Nuit Blanche D.C., a multi-faceted art festival that ran through the night.

Art All Night, produced by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, ran from 7 p.m. on Saturday to 3 a.m. the next day, with locations in D.C. neighborhoods Shaw, Dupont Circle, North Capitol, H Street NE and Congress Heights.

It featured various types of visual and performing arts including graffiti, film, spoken-word poetry, fashion, fiber arts, photography, painting, and jazz, go-go, and hip-hop music, among many others.

At one location on H Street, artist Sanaz Mazinani of a group called the 5×5 Project plastered windows of a vacant building with kaleidoscope-like patterns of “mass media imagery,” according to the 5×5 Project website.

Mazinani often paired American scenes with patterns reminiscent of Islamic architecture.

“I like how the artist is using Islamic features and American features together,” said visitor Tess Vartanian of Warrington, Va., citing specific images of the National Mall and a woman wearing a traditional hijab.

Gallery O on H featured an art installation by Albus Cavus that was focused on The Washington Informer, a D.C. area African-American newspaper.

When gallery co-owner Dolly Vehlow of Washington, D.C., heard about Art All Night, she said she wanted her gallery to be a part of it.

She and her husband Stephen Hessler had already hosted a number of community-oriented gallery parties and opened up for Art All Night in the same spirit.

“The whole goal of our gallery is to be a community space,” Vehlow said. Gallery OonH hopes to “recognize things … that add to the fiber and tapestry of the community,” she said. “Art can be accepted, understood, and appreciated from a number of different levels,” she said.

Photographer Jeffrey Miller of Bowie, Md., said that he had never been brave enough to show his art in public, but the community nature of Art All Night allowed him to do so.

“A lot of people,” Miller said, “they’re not in the art genre themselves and they think art is something off limits to the general public.” Events like Art All Night prove that it isn’t. Art isn’t limited to an “aloof, elite, ‘special’ group of people,” he said.

Malia Kai, an artist from Takoma Park, Md., said she had also, until recently, been trepidatious about exhibiting her artwork.

Now she is producing and showing more of her work.

“It’s a way to bring the art to the people who wouldn’t necessarily go to a gallery or museum this week,” she said.

One visitor, Idris Clay of Upper Marlboro, Md., agreed. While he likes art, he said, he was there for another reason.

“I just want to see people,” he said. “I want to see community.”

writersblocheadshots15Evan Berkowitz is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at evanjberkowitz@gmail.com.

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