Four dancers. Photo courtesy of DC Department of Small and Local Business Development
The message is clear: DC is open—go outside and rediscover the city. We’re talking open-until-3-AM open.
DC Art All Night, the District’s free overnight arts festival, is back in full swing for its 11th year. This year’s two-night event will take place across 22 main streets in all eight wards from 7 PM until 3 AM on Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24.
Look for expressions of all kinds from over 100 artists—including visual art, music, theater, crafts, fashion, and poetry—plus, a touch of the elements, in the form of ice sculptures and fire dancers. There will also be local businesses and restaurant vendors.
“It is the coolest party that you didn’t know government was throwing,” says Kristi Whitfield, Director of the DC Department of Small and Local Development, which collaborated with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC public libraries, DC Main Streets programs, and various local BIDs to put on the event.
Organizers say Art All Night is a way to both uplift local artists and encourage residents to get excited about the city after two challenging years and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “For many of the corridors where we hold this event, it is the highest sales night that they have that year,” Whitfield says. “Come out because it is funky, come out because it is fun. And you might see something that you’ve never seen before.”
Musicians on H Street, Northeast. The Dupont Underground market. A go-go band outside the MLK Library. Bounce houses and face painting for kids. How to decide where to go?
The only bad thing about this schedule, Whitfield says, is that there is no way to do every single thing. “I will tell you that every year, I complete my Art All Night journey in Congress Heights, because the music is entirely amazing.”
“Art saves lives,” says Keyonna Jones, Executive Director of Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center, in the 2021 Art All Night recap video.
Jones was born and raised in DC, east of the Anacostia River. “I kind of grew up being a weirdo because there was never any space or anything really, that nurtured the appetite of a creative. So I didn’t even know that I was a creative back then.”
Jones founded the Culture Center in 2015, which has been a must-visit stop during Art All Night for the past few years. This weekend, the center will host a silent disco, late night yoga on its rooftop, workshops, photo exhibits, and music. A kid zone—featuring a pony, provided with their partnership with The STAND foundation—is planned from 6 to 10 PM, which will give way to what Jones calls a “turn-up time for the adults.”
“It’s so big and so inclusive and diverse, we have so many things that go on in the middle of the street all night; it’s one of our safest parties as well. And I think that’s just really important for our community and just the rapport of our neighborhood that we can really just enjoy who we are, be ourselves, our music, our culture, our art,” Jones says. “It’s just a big party and [there’s] nothing like it.”
Find the full list of events, activations and maps at DCArtAllNight.org