Seventeenth annual Art All Night will fill every corner of grungy warehouse

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There's nothing like a blank canvas to spark the imagination and stir that mixture of hope, dread and exhilaration.

Art All Night offers that blank canvas with a ticking clock.

The 17th annual event returns to Willow Street Development in Lawrenceville this weekend with white canvases for savvy pros and kids still in the fingerpaint era of their careers.

Art All Night

Where: 40th and Willow streets, Lawrenceville.

Hours: 4 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: Free;;

The "Obliteration" room -- like Cream's "White Room" without the black curtains -- is inspired by Yayoi Kusama, the famed Japanese artist known for her polka-dot obsession and locally for her two long-term installations at the Mattress Factory. This one's for the kids.

"The idea is that you have this big white space," says Abby Vanim, marketing coordinator for the event, "a big white room, everything in it is white, you know, the furniture's white, the floor and the ceiling. And it's actually an interactive art piece where children will get some kind of sticker or marker or crayon to go in there and actually mark up the space. So, the room starts off totally white and as you can imagine we'll have hundreds of kids coming through there, by the end of the show we'll have a whole room of everybody's collaborative art work."

One can imagine the creative chaos going on there, and in the area -- away from the risque stuff -- where the children will be painting with marbles.

On the slightly less haphazard side are the onsite artists who work collaboratively along the back wall. It's one of the best attractions of Art All Night, and where the two masked characters on the cover were at work last year.

"It's painting all night," Ms. Vanim says. "So while they're working, people can wander past and see art being created live. Oftentimes, one person will start the painting and another person will finish it. It's pretty frantic as you can imagine. They have all night, but paint dries slowly."

Donald Toomer, of the Pittsburgh Print Group, who coordinators the artists, says they thrive on spontaneity.

"In some instances, the artist teams are familiar with each others' work, but on the whole, we work to randomly make matches based on the response to an open call for painters. Most teams typically discuss a basic theme or imagery in advance and some even work from sketches, but we find that, even in these instances, there is a fluidity to the work actually created and, often, plans are left behind after the first hour or two."

Those canvases will go home to the highest bidder during an auction at noon Sunday.

Another blank canvas, of sorts, is the Pop-Up Photo Studio. In a new feature this year, participating photographers will get 45 minutes to shoot and 45 minutes to edit their creations. Some of these photos will be available for purchase during the live auction.

The core of the show, as it originated, consists of painting, photography, sculpture, installation, etc., submitted by anyone and everyone, with no jury, no fee, no censorship.

Artists may submit one work in any medium but should register online first. Drop-off is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. Pieces must be ready to hang or display, and artists will need to show a photo ID during drop-off and pickup. It opens at 4 p.m. Saturday and runs through 2 p.m. Sunday, followed by the pickup from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

More than 1,200 artists generally participate with up to 15,000 viewing the work.

Art All Night takes a similar approach to the bands, which volunteer to play and are then at the mercy of a lottery system for their slot. (See schedule, page W-16.)

"We try to not pick specific bands based on their coverage," Ms. Vanim says. "We try to give everyone a chance to play. A band is looked on as another way as doing an art piece, because it's an art piece in itself. We put out a call to bands a couple weeks before the event and then 'the bands team' fills in those spots pretty randomly. Most bands are pretty understanding [about the slot]."

A bit of local music history was made last year at Art All Night when Michael Kastelic of the Cynics saw the Nox Boys, leading to the teen garage band from Blawnox being signed to the Cynics' Pittsburgh-based Get Hip Records and pulling in international reviews.

"It was awesome, man," Nox Boys singer Zack Keim says of the event. "I remember we played at 1 in the morning. The warehouse was huge. All natural reverb. The crowd was sweet and crazy. People were jumping around and moving."

The other piece of art is the building itself, a gritty, hulking, machine-filled warehouse that leaves late April open for Art All Night.

"It makes for a really vast and really interesting space," Ms. Vanim says. "We've noticed that people love taking photos there. It has that grungy cavernous feel of a Pittsburgh warehouse. I will say the weather does play a big part. If it's cold, it will be cold in the warehouse. Last year was really nice for Art All Night. So it was actually a little warm inside. That's one of the most unpredictable things about Art All Night."

Saturday's forecast has a high of 62 and a low of 37, so the temperature should vary as wildly as the art.

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