Art All Night Trenton: The 24-hour Arts Extravaganza
Jim Graziano is used to getting perplexed looks when he mentions Art All Night, the 24-hour cultural festival held every June in Trenton.
“People say, ‘Why would I want to look at a painting for 24 hours?” says Graziano, the music coordinator of the event, which returns to New Jersey’s capital this weekend. “No matter how enthusiastic you are in explaining it, you really have to be there to finally get it.”
And the beauty of Art All Night is you can be there at any time — 6 in the evening, 11 o’clock at night, 2 in the morning — and experience the same grab bag of art exhibits, movie screenings, live music, disco dancing, glassblowing and food.
“This really is like no other festival,” Graziano says.
It’s the ninth year Art All Night will take over the historic Roebling Wire Works building in the Chambersburg section of Trenton, beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and running until the same time Sunday. The free event is run by ArtWorks Trenton, a non-profit that encourages the creation of and education about the arts in the Garden State capital.
Last year’s edition drew more than 20,000 visitors. This year, there will be pieces from more than 1,000 artists on display and available for purchase inside the 50,000 square foot former wire factory, performances from dozens of musical acts on three different stages and a non-stop international film festival. For the first time, a circus act will entertain families.
Oh, and there will be a screening of a scene-by-scene remake of “Ghostbusters.”
“Every year, it’s gotten bigger and bigger,” says Jim Smith, the leader of electronic music act Teeel, which will play the main stage at 12:15 a.m. “It’s the coolest thing going on in New Jersey.”
Especially in the middle of the night.
The apex of the event begins shortly before midnight, when some of the bigger musical acts begin taking the stage. Honah Lee, the veteran Trenton alt-pop-rock band that Graziano plays bass in, performs at 11:15 p.m. (And yes, they take their name from the magical homeland of Puff the Magic Dragon.)
“There’s definitely a lot of Ramones influence to us — quick, catchy pop songs,” Graziano explains. “Songs I’d listen to when I was younger — songs from the ’50s and ’60s — I thought there was a real elegance to that; to be able to write songs that are two-and-a-half, three-and-a-half minutes long.”
Trenton hip-hop artist Black Collar Biz, who stole last year’s show with a raucous performance, returns for a midnight set this year.
And shortly after that, Teeel will brandish ’80s throwback electronic music.
“I actually know people who go during the day, go home and come back later at night,” says Smith, a Ewing native and Hamilton resident who plays in Teeel with guitarist Stephen Chladniček. “It definitely has a different vibe as soon as the sun goes down. It’s a lot more fun at night. You can see the place coming to life a little bit. During the day, it’s more about the gallery.”
Teeel is an appropriate act to play an event called Art All Night. By day, Smith is an artistic director at CDM, a pharmaceutical advertising company in Princeton. The group takes its name from the color of its recording studio.
And the group’s latest album, “Hydrostatic,” recently came out on frosted pink and white vinyl. “It looks like a jellyfish,” Smith says.
As for the music? “I use a lot of vintage equipment,” he says. “You instantly get that kind of nostalgia. But I try to add a contemporary feel to it — a fresh mode.”
Electronic music has usually dominated the overnight slots at Art All Night. But if you’d prefer something mellow in the morning hours, this year’s festival features acoustic performances from 3 to 6 a.m. — including Logan Carpenter of nearby Morrisville, Pa.; Tyler Seton of Columbus; and Brian Rothenbeck of Hackettstown.
“This is a way of stirring the pot — to keep things fresh and interesting,” Graziano explains.
And those who want to dance, don’t fret. There will be electronic music throughout the 24-hour silent disco, where visitors dance quietly to music pumped through headphones.
Graziano is also excited by two other musical acts. One is Moot Davis, a New Jersey roots rocker who plays the outdoor stage at 11:45 a.m. Sunday.
“He’s been doing really well,” Grazanio says. “He spent the last year touring the country and he had a song on FX’s ‘Justified’ and will have one on an upcoming episode of ‘Nashville.’”
The other is Trilogy, a chamber music trio who will play two sets from noon to 1:45 p.m. Sunday.
“The Wireworks building was really asking for chamber music, and I was finally able to find a chamber music trio,” Graziano beams. “I’m excited to hear that kind of music. It’s made for that kind of space. And you’ll be able to walk around, see art, put your pinky out and feel classy.”
Those who prefer the visual to the aural can catch live 24-hour glassblowing from Poncho Glass, as well as a non-stop dueling muralist exhibit. There are also two 15-minute performances from the Trenton Circus Squad.
The film festival features entries from Canada to England to Spain to Slovakia, as well as blocks of music videos and kids flicks.
“The result of this process will be a funny, weird mash-up of our tributes to one of the greatest genre films of all time — and it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun to watch,” says filmmaker Jeff Stewart, who oversaw the project.And from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday, you can catch a parody of the 1984 horror-comedy “Ghostbusters.” Each of the scenes is shot in different styles by 15 Trenton-area filmmakers.
If you’re in the mood to learn, there are master classes featuring lectures about making art, promoting art and battling urban blight — a problem in cities like Trenton — with art and other beautification.
“They are about emboldening creative people and artists in communities,” Jonathan Elliott, the festival’s public relation coordinator, says of the classes.
The entire festival is held in place by about 400 volunteers who do everything from take in art, install art, sell art, set up exhibits and concerts and help with PR. Last year’s youngest volunteer was 8. The oldest was 85.
“It’s amazing that we can find 400 people who are essentially willing to come to Trenton at all hours of the day and night and provide excellent, skilled and positive customer service,” Elliott marvels.
Plus, the afternoon goes a long way to shedding light on a Trenton arts and music scene that often gets overlooked.
“I think it’s very small by comparison to other cities, but it’s very tight-knit,” says Graziano, who was born in Trenton and lives in Hamilton. “There’s a lot of talent and diversity of talent. A lot of people are multiple threats. It doesn’t get the spotlight it should.”
With that in mind, Graziano has a challenge for those who have an hour or two to spare Saturday or Sunday.
“If you’re unsure about the potential for good there is to come out of Trenton,” he says, “walk around for five minutes at Art All Night, and you’ll have a different view.”
Art All Night 2015 is happening June 20 & 21, 2015 from 3 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the Roebling Wire Works adjacent to the Roebling Market and located at 675 South Clinton Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08611. Parking is located at 640 South Broad Street. For more details, a list of master classes, the live music schedule and more, visit www.artallnighttrenton.org.