TRENTON — From late Saturday afternoon into the wee hours of the morning and beyond, art lovers flocked to Art All Night, an annual celebration that for 24 hours, transforms the former Roebling Wire Works factory building into a thriving arts and music scene.
The free event, which continues Sunday until 3 p.m., is a pop-up art exhibit designed to showcase the visual, performing and functional arts from children’s refrigerator drawings to accomplished artists.
Now in its eighth year, the program is organized by ArtWorks, a nonprofit visual arts center in downtown Trenton that is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Board member Jacque Howard said that it is an effective example of how art can propel economic development in a post-industrial city such as Trenton.
“It allows people to come in a safe environment in a concentrated location and actually witness a very diverse, eclectic group of people from Trenton and from the surrounding communities coming here together, hanging out and enjoying lots of culture,” he said over the loud beats of a nearby drum circle.
This year, 1,036 participants working in various mediums — pencil, paint, pottery, sculpture, photography — submitted a record number of pieces. Drop-off began Friday and continued until two hours before the start of the event.
“It becomes this crazy relay of people bringing in their art,” said Marketing Director Jonathan Elliott. “We don’t know what the art usually looks like until it arrives. It’s a fly-by-the-minute curation in terms of what art looks good next to each other.”
The majority of artists put their works up for sale, with many donating a portion of their proceeds to ArtWorks, he said.
“Art All Night is proof positive that there are people with a really vibrant spirit in this city and they’re willing to stake their claim on this city and express themselves beautifully and earnestly,” Elliott said.
The arts, he said, serve to comment on culture, help people better communicate with each other and be fun and entertaining.
“I can’t name an event that does a better job of those three things at once,” he said.
And the historic location only adds to the experience.
“You step inside and have this moment of ‘This is a blank canvas that we’re about to fill with all this energy,’” he said.
A crowd of between 30,000 and 40,000 people is expected. Early Saturday was mostly family time and as the night progresses, attendance ebbs and flows into the early morning hours, which is popular with the younger crowd, Howard said.
Agnes Gummere, 17, of Philadelphia, who submitted her drawing, said the event is an opportunity for young artists to show their work.
“It’s really interesting to be able to have such a wide variety of different medias and different levels of talent,” she said. “There’s not a lot of other places that you can get that from. … This is from all over the board.”
Attendee Erik Griffith, of New Hope, Pa., liked the fact that there were no limitations on age or experience.
“I like the contrast of ages and amateur and professional and media — all just side by side,” he said. “I think it’s great that Trenton is doing this. This is an amazing space for it.”
Marci and Jaysin Deal, of Trenton, said they return year after year for the laid-back atmosphere free of violence. Their five children were rocking out in the “silent disco,” where party-goers danced along to music from individual wireless headphones.
“There’s nothing not to like about it,” Jaysin Deal said.
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