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Grassroots Festival 'Art All Night' Goes Online

While arts events can’t happen in person right now, some translate online more easily than others: plays and concerts on a screen are missing something, of course, but essential information still gets conveyed.

Art All Night Online: 4 p.m. Sat., May 16, to 2 p.m. Sun., May 17

But what about Art All Night? The annual community event is an uncurated showcase of work by nearly 1,000 artists and live performers, for visitors numbering an estimated 15,000, in some high-ceilinged donated industrial space or other, usually in Lawrenceville (with just one exception).

The festival atmosphere, the 22-hour duration, the surprise of the artwork to be found around the next corner, the rubbing of shoulders with strangers, even the noise of a big gathering – in total it makes Art All Night a highlight of the Pittsburgh arts calendar. And it makes Art All Night as we’ve known it impossible during a pandemic.

The grassroots event’s team of volunteer organizers originally planned to simply postpone the event, said longtime co-organizer Marisa Golden. But then they thought Pittsburgh might miss attending Art All Night as much as they missed staging it. And while they have settled on a solution, they’re not billing it as a substitute for the real thing.

“We can’t replicate it,” said Golden. “That’s why we’re not calling it ‘Virtual Art All Night.’ We’re calling it Art All Night Online. It’s a separate experience.”

Art All Night Online will still start on a Saturday afternoon, and it will still last 22 hours. And all the artworks will still be for sale. But instead of trekking to Lawrenceville, visitors will visit to find photos of artworks, and links to videos of performances.

The works will be organized by “rooms,” where 2D artworks, for instance, are displayed in panels of eight.

“We really were striving to enable people to submit the same piece in the online show that they had intended to submit in the live show,” said Golden. Artists were also asked to submit videos of themselves at work, to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look.

Another room will house themed hangouts, whose volunteer hosts have created online spaces (via Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.) for people to experience the show as a group.

“The hope is that not only do people gather, but this is a space that they can explore the art together and perhaps discuss what they like about it, and what they’re drawn to,” said Golden.

The deadline for becoming a hangout host was midnight Thursday. Golden said earlier that day that a dozen hosts had signed up so far. Themes have not been publicized yet, but hangouts suggested by organizers included “music explorer,” “art scavenger hunt,” and “children’s activity coordinator.”

Artists seem roughly as enthused to participate as they’ve been with IRL Art All Nights: About 850 artists have work in this weekend’s show, only about 50 fewer than the 900 who participated last year.

While artist submissions have closed, and Art All Night doesn’t need any in-person volunteers this year, Golden said, there’s still an important role for volunteers to play: Spreading the word.

For more information, visit here.