You know you’ve been around for a long time when you remember when a grand and upscale annual fete was just a rowdy and upstart street festival.
White Linen Night turns 20 this year – that’s right, two decades of sweaty art strolls, originally conceived to thwart the Dog Days of summer, that now draws upwards of 45,000 people dressed to the nines in the requisite snowy fabric.
You might say that White Linen Night has become Old School.
It’s a thought that a couple of contemporary art-related organizations are taking tongue in cheek to O.C. Haley Boulevard with an after-party called White Light After Dark.
The event has all the requisite parts that made White Linen Night such a success: It puts emerging musicians and artists in an emerging locale with enough jazz and libations to get the party going. Not so different, really, from that first White Linen Night on another emerging avenue – the then-newly named Art District along Julia Street – in 1994.
White Light After Dark is the brainchild of Where Y’Art and NOLA Art House Music. The first is a start-up launched by Catherine Todd and Collin Ferguson that brings local artists to a national audience through an online marketplace and virtual studio. The second is a group of local musicians dedicated to showcasing the musical talent still being produced in the Crescent City. Together, the two (with a little help from NolaVie and New Orleans Living magazine) are planning a Speakeasy party featuring great jazz and Prohibition-inspired libations at Tasseaology, the “swankiest joint on OC Haley.” As the poster for the party extolls: “Come party like it’s 1929.”
Tasseology, in case you don’t know, is as upstart and creative as the two aforementioned arts organizations. The café opened on June 1, and occupies the building with the rabbit men on the roof.
Yes, rabbit men: These life-size bunny people by artist Alex Podesta sit atop the building, peering over the rooftop rail as though they are incessantly scanning the skyline for a look at all the unfathomable things that New Orleanians do. (Read the bunny back story in an article by Sharon Litwin here.)
Besides living in a city where bunny people also reside, I love New Orleans for its irreverent ability to foster new enterprises. There’s a can-do – or maybe a “why not” – attitude about life here that prompts people to start things.
No one seems to think it would be too overwhelming to launch a new Carnival krewe, or fashion line, or annual event. And as businesses or happenings mature into more stalwart initiatives – as they should – they spin off fresh new creations that, like their predecessors, start out edgy and evocative.
And so, as White Linen Night grows a little older and a little more predictable, events like White Light After Dark pop up to offer something new and unexpected.
It makes for a healthy mix of old and new, traditional and non-traditional. And that, too, speaks eloquently of New Orleans. It’s a place where a 150-year-old Victorian might open to a slick contemporary interior, or works by an edgy artist like Swoon can occupy space at both the New Orleans Museum of Art and Bywater’s Music House.
Come Saturday night, I’ll don my best white-linen attire and enjoy, for yet another year, a stroll along Julia Street. And then I’ll head to O.C. Haley and an after-party that promises something new and fun.
“We want this to be the first of many successful collaborations to promote the present and next-generation artists and musicians of New Orleans,” says Edward Anderson of NOLA Art House Music.
Perhaps, 20 years from now, the crowd will be 45,000 strong along OC Haley. And we’ll discover an after-after party somewhere along the next emerging urban corridor.
Read the back story behind Where ‘Y’Art here.
Edward Anderson gives the inside story on NOLA Art House Music here.