For the first time in its two-decade history, Art All Night will not be held in Lawrenceville, citing a lack of open warehouse space that underscores the changes this Allegheny River town has undergone in the past 20 years.
With its mantra “No Fees. No Jury. No Censorship.” and its gritty, experimental vibe, the free 22-hour art show has drawn thousands to Lawrenceville every spring, but this weekend’s show will move to the South Side.
As Lawrenceville’s popularity continues to surge and rack up plaudits as “the next Brooklyn,” it also means the mill town is changing — fast. Just 20 years ago, there was no shortage of open warehouse space. Now, not so much.
This doesn’t mean that Lawrenceville is empty of warehouse space, though there are certainly fewer open warehouses than two decades ago, said Matthew Galluzzo, executive director of nonprofit community development group Lawrenceville Corporation.
Finding a home for Art All Night hinges on three questions, he said: Is the warehouse available on the weekend of the show? Is it big enough for the show? Does the property owner want to host a pop-up art show in their building?
Art All Night demands a large warehouse space — 80,000 square feet, to be exact, to accommodate more than 1,000 artists and 15,000 spectators.
“We need a large empty building, and there are no large empty buildings left in Lawrenceville for us to use,” said Marisa Golden Janssen, a graphic designer who has volunteered on the Art All Night organizing committee for eight years. “It’s a good and a bad thing. That means that Lawrenceville has gotten to the point where there’s not really any empty space. That means that people are living there and businesses are there.”
The building that housed Art All Night last year is now home to an Uber office. Another former Art All Night site has been demolished to make way for apartments, Janssen said.
“It is getting much more difficult to find warehouse space in Lawrenceville. … New companies are moving into Lawrenceville and leasing large spaces. Some new warehouse space has been built, but even that has been leased before being completed,” said Owen Lampe, a Lawrenceville resident, longtime Art All Night co-organizer and Lawrenceville Corporation board member.
If a warehouse becomes available, Art All Night could return in the future, Janssen said, and Galluzzo hopes it will, especially as “people in the neighborhood (are) clamoring to have it back.”
This year, the show will be held in the South Side at 198 S. 4th St., a former railroad terminal being redeveloped into The Highline. It will have access to a parking lot, which is a departure from its usual Lawrenceville locations. Plus, Janssen said, the new location offers light rail and bus access, whereas only buses serve Lawrenceville.
Other than the location change, everything else will be the same — “a free show giving everyone the ability to experience and participate in art of all forms,” Janssen said.
Anybody can enter a work of art, and anybody can show up to view the artwork (and even bid on some to take home). Paintings, drawings, photography, ceramics, and mixed media will be on display between 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29. Also look for live painting demonstrations, musical performances and a kids zone.
Volunteers are still needed to help run the show, by the way, and you can find details here.
Art All Night has a reputation for leaving a warehouse better than when they found it, Janssen said. Volunteers work to make the buildings safe for spectators, and Lawrenceville businesses continue to donate food, money and materials to support the show, even though it moved, Janssen said. Lawrenceville Corporation continues to serve as the show’s fiduciary, helping it with tasks like completing insurance and leasing the space.
“We know of people who moved to Lawrenceville because of the show,” Lampe said. “It is an opportunity for the community to come together for a special event where everyone is treated equally and all are welcome.”
In the late ’90s, a group of artists living in Lawrenceville came up with the idea for Art All Night over drinks one night.
“They thought art should be something available and accessible to everyone,” Janssen said. “They knew there was a lot of empty space in the business district and said, ‘Hey, would you be OK with us turning your space into an art gallery?'”
They hoped a few people would attend. More than 100 artists submitted work, and 200 spectators showed up.
Now, as the show has far exceeded those expectations, moving to a new neighborhood could continue those same goals in a new way.
“By coming into a new neighborhood … you’re potentially exposing Art All Night to people who don’t even know that it exists,” Janssen said. “The birthplace of Art All Night is not the current location, but that’s not a bad thing.”
Meander through rows of artwork created by fellow Pittsburghers at this free 22-hour art festival. Expect to see more than 1,000 pieces of artwork, live painting demonstrations, musical performances and a kids zone.
Where: The Highline at 198 South Fourth St. (South Side)
When: April 28, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. to April 29, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
How much: Free