Crowds Hit Shaw for Art All Night Festival

Batala Washington drummers at the Watha T Daniel Library. Photo by Pleasant Mann

The Art All Night festival was held in Shaw for the fifth time on the night of September 24th. This year’s festival, which had the theme, Art All Night: Made in DC, emphasized the District’s new push to promote DC goods and services. In fact, almost all the artists in Shaw and in the other six neighborhoods where the festival was held this year were DC residents. The 38 venues in Shaw for Art All Night 2016 ranged from the Foundry Gallery at the north, all the way down to the Morrison-Clark Hotel at the south end, with the Seventh and Ninth Street commercial corridors in between. Many venues were active from 7:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. the following morning.

The night started with a two-hour pre-party outdoors on upper Eighth Street sponsored by developer JBG, featuring over 25 acrobats, aerialists, stilt walkers, fire breathers and costumed performers from the Nuit Cirque troupe. Art installations, interactive art making and DJs activated businesses and restaurants at the Shay and Atlantic Plumbing buildings.

As in previous years, the center of Shaw’s Art All Night was at the Watha T. Daniel Library. The main floor of the library was devoted to adult crafts, coloring books and games, face painting and a DJ set played among the soft sculptures of sea creatures created by Beth Baldwin. In the basement, New Community ArtSpace led a do-it-yourself art workshop, with participants working in paint and yarn. A DJ on the second floor also kept the vibe up.

In front of the library, Dem’ Raider Boyz Step Squad, a troupe of junior and senior high school steppers presented by Step Afrika!, did their routines. Then the always popular Batala Washington troupe of women drummers performed for a packed crowd of spectators under the library’s neon sculpture. After they finished their set, the Batala drummers marched up Seventh Street to assemble again for another performance across from the Howard Theater.

And across the street from the library, at Parcel 42, the vacant lot at Seventh and R Streets, there was a glow-in-the-dark dance party. Participants danced with glow sticks and luminous body paint while a giant psychedelic liquid light show was projected against the wall behind them. At midnight, Moskha Nar gave her third consecutive fire fan dance performance at a Shaw Art All Night, this one entitled “All Roots Leave Home,” in front of hundreds of rapt onlookers.

Dozens of restaurants, bars and other Shaw businesses displayed art for the festival, with a number also hosting DJs to entertain visitors. Compass Coffee on Seventh Street became a concert venue with standing room only crowds in attendance to watch a diverse set of music groups. At Bread for the City, Curtis Mozie showed excerpts from his renowned video series “The Tale of the Tape,” which documents the effect of gang violence on the youth of Shaw. He also showed videos documenting the history of Shaw, including a clip of Muhammad Ali visiting the O Street Market. Across the street, in front of La Jambe, an accordionist created a Parisian mood on the corner.

On Ninth Street, Espita Mezcaleria encouraged the takeover of America by taco trucks by setting up a mock truck on the corner of its patio, dispensing tacos, bebidas and art prints. Old City Farm and Guild held a Grassroots Comedy show with sets by a number of local comics. They were followed by a performance of fire dancers and an aerialist.

A number of roving artistic performances took place outdoors. Chinese Lion Dances by the Hung Tao Choy Mei Fu Academy and Wong People were performed in the courtyard at the Morrison Clark Hotel and in front of Chao Ku restaurant. Shaw residents organized by Thick Air Studios carried illuminated punctuation signs as part of the Portable Punctuation performance, where the signs were intended to point out notable aspects of the neighborhood and generate conversations about the community.

In the basement of the Wonder Bread Building, the Youth for Understanding Event Space was turned into a continuous all-night party with major DJs playing dance music, along with an art show, fashion displays and even a video gaming lounge. Wanda’s on 7th salon hosted a spontaneous DJ-driven dance party that drew a packed crowd, with Charlie Visconage’s colorful pop art paintings in the background.

The 600 block of T Street was turned into a strip of activity, starting with artist Cita Sadeli CHELOVE, who worked on a new mural in the alley (see Shaw Streets article). Conceptual artist Tsedaye Makonnen performed “Lost and Loss.” her piece on the refugee crisis, on the T Street sidewalk. At 637 T St. NW, a future restaurant space hosted an exhibition of DC prints by Michael Crossett. ZipCar parked an auto on the pavement, inviting art lovers to decorate the car with provided markers. At the end of the block, the multimedia collective One Love Massive had people lined up to chill out in their recently opened space at 631 T St., while live music and DJ sets were featured on the adjacent lot.

Art All Night continues to be a major annual event in Shaw, where it began in 2011. It has now gone city-wide, presented by the Department of Small and Local Business Development and seven DC Main Streets organizations, including Shaw Main Streets, with financial support from the Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Art All Night is now an important symbol of the vitality of the District’s arts community and the support it receives from local businesses and government.

Chinese Lion Dance in front of Chao Ku restaurant. Photo by Pleasant Mann
Visitors examine Anna U. Davis painting at Dacha Supper Club. Photo by Alexander Padro
Liquid Light Show at Shaw Art All Night. Photo by Alexander Padro
Somapa Thai Dance Company performing at Beau Thai. Photo by Pleasant Mann
Somapa Thai Dance Company performing at Beau Thai. Photo by Pleasant Mann