When people go to an art exhibition, they expect at the very least that it will be carefully curated and thoughtfully hung.
And then there's Art All Night in Lawrenceville, where anything goes. And they take the "anything" seriously.
"We take all the art we can get, even if some consider it strange or unusual," says Abby Vanim, volunteer marketing coordinator for the 16th annual event this weekend.
"Art All Night is uncensored, period. We never reject a piece of art; that is what makes this event so unique. We don't want to be the judge of what art is 'worth it' and what isn't. Many of our participants are showing their work for the first time at Art All Night, and we want them to feel welcome."
Yeah, but people are always getting offended by art. The Three Rivers Arts Festival used to specialize in that. What if that happens at the Willow Street Development in Lawrenceville?
"Some pieces may not be to everyone's liking," Ms. Vanim says. "Everyone who comes to Art All Night is allowed and encouraged to interpret the art in their own way. What offends one person might really make the show for another viewer. However, we want Art All Night to be a family event -- and that includes kids. We design and lay out our space to make sure that the art near the children's activities is youth-friendly."
Here's how it works: Artists, numbering as many as 1,200, 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.
The event is almost entirely volunteer-driven -- anyone can show up and be put to work on the spot -- and this year, volunteers will be using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as the preparation and events unfold.
The expected 12,000 visitors to the site, behind the 40th Street Bridge, can expect original artwork for viewing and sale, children's activities and painting lessons, cartoonists, caricatures, live art-making, plus a full schedule of bands, from famed L-ville natives The Spuds to Awful Waffles, running straight through the night.
How do you get bands to play at 4 in the morning?
"We know that everyone wants to play at the peak hours, so we use a lottery system each year to decide who gets what time slot," Ms. Vanim says. "It can be exhausting to be the one playing at 4 in the morning, but everyone is always willing to show up, perform and have fun."
For many of the "artists" submitting work, Art All Night is just a fun outlet for expression. In some cases, though, it's been a spark to something bigger.
Ms. Vanim relays the story of Dan Swackhammer, a photographer from Jamestown, N.Y. He shot photographs for more than 30 years but never exhibited anything until Art All Night. A friend of his urged him to submit a piece, saying the process was "easy and non-judgmental." He enlarged a photograph, placed it in a frame with pre-cut mat and was surprised when it sold.
Inspired by that, he printed a book with 24 of his shots, and took it to a local library gallery, hoping to get a piece in an upcoming show.
"Instead," he writes, "I was offered a six-week solo show later that year! So I bought a mat cutter and more frames and created an 80-print show called 'Compass Points -- Views From the Road.' We had over 100 people at the opening, and by the time it closed I had sold 20 of the 80 prints from the exhibit."
He now has prints in three galleries in Western New York.
"My photography is still a hobby," he notes, "but now it is a much more intensive labor of love, and is self-supporting. I've learned much more about mounting and sales and presentation, and obviously still have much more to learn. But none of this would have happened without the push of my friends, and the beginner-friendly attitude of the Art All Night group."
He works there now as a greeter for the artists, so you might see him when you carry your work, hopefully, through the door.
ART ALL NIGHT
Where: Willow Street Development, 40th and Willow streets, Lawrenceville.
When: 4 p.m. Saturday through 2 p.m. Sunday. Children's activities (paint splash project, screen printing, weaving and bubble painting, building cardboard city) will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: Free; www.artallnight.org.
Social media: facebook.com/artallnight; @ArtAllNight on Twitter. Use the hashtag #ImAnArtAllNighter to join the conversation; artallnightlawrenceville.tumblr.com; instagram.com/artallnightlawrenceville.
5 p.m.: Paddy the Wanderer
5:30 p.m.: Jim Dandies
6 p.m.: Spuds
6:30 p.m.: Eric Boyd
7 p.m.: FAAP Dance
7:30 p.m.: Donno O
8 p.m.: The Heavy Lids
8:30 p.m.: SFX
9 p.m.: Jericho Theory
10 p.m.: The Elemental
10:30 p.m.: Massage Parlor
11 p.m.: Awful Waffles
11:30 p.m.: Middle Children
12:30 a.m.: Dumplings
1 a.m.: Nox Boys
1:30 a.m.: King Fez
2 a.m.: Red Hands
2:30 a.m.: Guests of Guests
3 a.m.: Fidel
3:30 a.m.: Jerrett Tebbetts
4 a.m.: Kabarett Vulgare
4:30 a.m.: The Van Allen Belt
10 a.m.: Brian DeSanto
10:30 a.m.: Station Wagon
11 a.m.: Witch Baby
11:30 a.m.: First Person Singular
Noon: Wester Pennsylvania
12:30 p.m.: Chris Hannigan
1 p.m.: Cathasaigh
1:30 p.m.: Steel City Harmonizers
Sally Kalson contributed to this story. Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2576.