Georgetown’s Art All Night: A Brilliant Evening

Georgetown’s second annual Art All Night festivities wowed attendees and crackled with celebratory community energy last Friday, Sept. 23 from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. along the upper Wisconsin Ave. NW business corridor. 

Sidewalks were choked with cheerful visitors sporting fall fashions, enjoying cool autumn breezes, delighting in musical performances, browsing open gallery exhibits, art lectures and pop-up vendors’ stalls, as well as fine outdoor drinking and dining. 

Organized by Georgetown Main Street (GMS), the event – much expanded over last year’s inaugural celebration – featured a Grand Opening at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, over 100 local artists, more than 20 participating businesses, 13 event locations, dozens of international artists, 7 art exhibitions, 3 DJs, hands-on art activities for children and families, plus free coffee and tea for attendees. 

“Our big expectations for a great event were exceeded,” said GMS Executive Director Rachel Shank. “It was better than we could have hoped for.” According to Shank, Art All Night “brought out Georgetown neighbors to enjoy all that Georgetown Main Street (aka Wisconsin Avenue NW) has to offer. We invited the community to not only attend the event but also to be involved in the event, and our call to action was met by Duke Ellington School of the Arts, art galleries, the neighborhood library, Jackson Art Center, Georgetown University, and more. We can’t wait to see who gets involved next year.”

Duke Ellington School of the Arts Jazz Band. Photo by Chris Jones.

Co-host of Art All Night, Ann Goldstein, said, “The second year of Art All Night validated last year‘s inaugural success by surpassing even our boldest expectations this year! Already so many of the stakeholders, businesses and performers have asked to re-up for next year… GMS Art All Night is here to stay, the cultural extravaganza of the year… from Georgetown for Georgetown!

Though GMS is still crunching the numbers with the Georgetown Business District (BID), preliminary attendance reports for the evening include:

  • African Union: 2,098 (last year 844)
  • Calloway Fine Arts:  1,359 (last year 565)
  • Gallery Article 15: 804 (new this year)
  • Shop Made in DC: 1,084 (last year 180)

“Even without knowing the aggregated attendance numbers, it is safe to say Georgetown Art All Night doubled in size from 2021 to 2022,” said Shank. “Musicians enjoyed crowded performances, sidewalks were jammed, artists sold paintings, some pop up vendors had the most successful event of the year.”

The Grand Opening commenced with much hubbub as excited crowds formed at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library at 3260 R Street. NW. Duke Ellington School of the Arts’s Radical Elite Show Band was assembling in formation at the library’s entrance prior to their fanfare march down Wisconsin Avenue to launch the festival. Kids and families were hustling inside for story times while adults were scurrying up to the second floor to attend a lecture on the Peabody Room’s collection of Georgetown art hosted by Special Collections Librarian Jerry McCoy.

Duke Ellington School of the Arts’s Radical Elite Show Band. Photo by Chris Jones.

“Each one of these works of art has a story to tell. And, over the past 20 years that I’ve been here I’ve managed to do research on most of the paintings, but not all. And, I’m sure every one of them has a fascinating little story. But I can only give you snippets about some of the paintings. I’m not even going to be talking about all the paintings we have, or we’d be here all night,” McCoy said as he launched his powerpoint to the group of 25 or so seniors and adults.

Soon, however, McCoy had to compete with amplified sounds of classical Indian dance performances before an audience on the library’s terrace below. “You can’t compete with the PA system,” McCoy joked. 

Indian classical dance performers wowed crowds on the terrace of Georgetown Neighborhood Library. Photo by Chris Jones.

Meanwhile, in the pop-up vendors’ area outside the library, toddlers – with their parents looking on happily – construct their own artworks near the table for Follies Playsets. “They can make a playhouse or a theatre or many things,” said Follies Playsets’ founder Chloe Varelidi who has a studio at Fillmore Arts. “Each is inspired by art and architecture and is designed by me. This one here [pointing to children playing with one of her sets nearby] is inspired by Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico City where she grew up…” How does Varelidi like Art All Night? “It’s really fun. The kids are loving it so much and the parents can have a cup of coffee” while the children create their works.

Follies Playsets’ founder Chloe Varelidi is delighted to see the kids creating their own works. Photo by Chris Jones.

Strolling down Book Hill, festival attendees Lucia Pop and Anna Simone are posing for pictures at the iconic public sculptural seat “ABCDE.” They’re loving Art All Night. “There’s a lot of different flavors,” to the evening, Lucia says. “There’s music, art and canvases that are all interesting and there’s the people-watching and the awesome food… We love it. I feel like Georgetown really comes alive and you really see the essence of this town.” 

Gotta snap a pic at the iconic ABCDE chair! Photo by Chris Jones.

In front of The Fountain Inn at 1659 Wisconsin Ave. NW, a live painting demonstration is being given by Georgetown artist Caroline Karp, surrounded by several of her paintings from her series Iconic Georgetown Buildings. While chatting with passersby, she’s adding brushstrokes to a work she’s calling Special Delivery on M Street. “If you look at the van” in the painting, she said, “you’ll see that it’s full of my art work that’s being delivered somewhere on M Street. So, it’s kind of cheeky.”

Does Karp find it distracting to paint while being pestered with questions? “Not at all,” she said, “I like it because people’s energy becomes part of the art work.” While Karp has galleries in Tampa, Kauai and D.C., she always finds it energizing to paint in Georgetown where “all the buildings and the colors just talk to me and the people are just really friendly.”

Karp holding her painting “Special Delivery on M Street.” She draws energy from observers who stop to ask her questions. Photo by Chris Jones.

Now the lush piano sounds of La Vie en Rose sets the sultry sidewalk mood. An Open Piano is set up in the Chase Bank parking lot with a sign that invites folks to “Play Me!! (All Levels).” Georgetown resident Lan Nguyen said “I was just enjoying the beautiful night when I stumbled across this open piano and it was just so lonely sitting here. [laughs]” For Nguyen, Art All Night is a “celebration of the diversity of the talent [in the community] and is so inspiring. It’s such a beautiful energy to walk down the street and see everyone smiling and learning from each other and being inspired. Walking dogs and tasting new foods and even getting henna tattoos!” Nguyen’s henna art upon her wrists adds to her visual flair. When told that her rendition of La Vie En Rose brought tears to one’s eye, she was stunned and said this was the “second time someone has said that this evening.”

Lan Nguyen plays La Vie En Rose on the Open Piano. Photo by Chris Jones.

Soon, even more joyous sounds – this time rhythmic Congolese drumming and vocals – emanate in front of soon-to-officially-opened Article 15 Gallery at 1624 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Passersby are joining in to dance and chat with the African performers. The gallery’s owner, Elizabeth Jaffee, told The Georgetowner how much she loves Art All Night. “It’s just an amazing event to be part of all of this. To have everyone in Georgetown come together. As a resident of Georgetown, for me to see everyone out here celebrating and all of the art – it’s just a wonderful experience.” 

Jaffee, a former State Department Foreign Service officer stationed in sub-Saharan Africa, has been looking for years to turn her private collection of contemporary Congolese art into a Georgetown gallery space. “Georgetown really brings together the best of everything in D.C.,” Jaffee said. “In terms of art, music, and culture and all the age groups and that’s what we’re seeing out on the street. It’s really the community coming together to celebrate the arts.” Article 15 is the “first gallery of contemporary Congolese art” in the United States, Jaffee said. “It’s really a space for these artists who are underrepresented in the U.S. to have a place to market and show people this extraordinary talent.”

Elizabeth Jaffee (center), founder of Article 15 gallery featuring contemporary Congolese art. Photo by Chris Jones.

Meanwhile, on the sidewalk in front of Calloway Fine Arts at 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW a DJ spins pulsing international beats while inside a live painting exhibition is featured in the gallery’s bay window. The two-floor gallery specializing in fine arts for the home is bustling with curious shoppers and art aficionados. “It’s just so nice, especially after Covid, to see so many people so enthusiastic about the arts coming back,” said owner Susan Calloway who’s been running the shop for 29 years. “It’s just so nice to see all the people.” This year, the gallery has opened up its floor space “a little more” because “we had so many artists last year on this floor that it was total gridlock,” she said. 

A viewer entranced at Calloway Fine Art. Photo by Chris Jones.

Meanwhile in the activated gallery next door, Washington Print Foundation board member and photographer, Marie-B Cilia de Amicis, is busy filling out a receipt for a customer for one of her sought-after photo prints. “It’s such a great event,” she says of Art All Night. “We have so many people and it’s been very successful. It’s beautiful.” For the Georgetown Celebrates the Arts event last year, de Amicis organized the kakimono art banners that adorned Wisconsin Avenue. She’s hoping to bring them back for next year’s Art All Night. 

Sidewalks bustling outside Gallery L’Enfant. Photo by Chris Jones.

On the second floor over Compass Coffee at 1351 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Georgetown Creatives held their Summer Photo Contest. A panel of judges including independent art curator Virginia Shore, outgoing Phillips Collection Board Chair Dani Levinas and professional photographer Matt Mendelsohn selected top honors to go to Georgetown resident Isabel Ernst. ANC Commissioner Elizabeth Miller (2E07), a founder of Georgetown Creatives, sent us this photo she snapped at an angle of the winning shot:

Isabel Ernst’s winning photo for the Georgetown Creatives Summer Photo Competition. Photo be Elizabeth Miller.

In front of L’Enfant Gallery at 1442 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Georgetown resident and painter Robin Sutliff is having a drink and chatting about her paintings prominently displayed in the window. “My work in the window is acrylic on resin on canvas and I love the shine,” Sutliff muses. “They change with the light so in the day when you walk by you’re going to see the shift in color and effervescence.” Sutliff, who used to own Miracle on 34th Street flower gallery nearby, said her summer painting project this year was to delve into floral themes.

“I love seeing people come out to wrap their minds around and appreciate the art and just be happy for what’s going on,” Sutliff said. “It’s such a beautiful evening. And if you look around, people are all smiling. And people are like ‘Oh, what are we going to see next?’ And, to find the beauty that is all around us and to take the time to appreciate that – what could be better?”


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