Art All Night 2015 Round-up

warehouse in Pittsburgh where Art All Night 2015 was held

Outside Art All Night’s home for the last couple years

Art All Night.  That most democratic of all one-day, all-night, anything-goes art “happenings.” It’s one of the reasons The Orbit took up shop in Lawrenceville some fifteen years ago and, at least for the moment, it’s still going strong.

This past weekend was Art All Night’s eighteenth year.  We were there seventeen years ago for event #2 in the former G.C. Murphy’s on Butler Street (now Rent-a-Center).  Back then, that medium-sized retail space was over-large for the hundred-some pieces of artwork that walked in the door and the couple hundred event-goers there to check them out. The art was hung, as I recall, on old Murphy’s pegboard, before the advent of the now-standard OSB and 2×4 panels.

Even in its embryonic state, this blogger-to-be was hooked.  We bought our house right up the hill a year later and I was volunteering for the event the year after that. My contribution has dwindled to just the big build-out day, but my conscience won’t let me not show up at all.

Art All Night is in the weird position of being a victim of its own success.  The elephant in the warehouse-sized room is that the event won’t be around forever; Lawrenceville is just running out of the kind of giant, vacant real estate that can still accommodate thousands of visitors. This year’s building is slated for (at least partial) demolition and redevelopment, which is sad, but also makes perfect sense.

industrial warehouse interior with paint slingshot targets

Paint slingshot targets

I didn’t take any big group shots of the thousands of people who packed the massive five-bay industrial building where the event took place this (and last) year, nor did I try to capture any of the many performers (some 40+ musical acts, dance, improv comedy, live painting, a guy trying to set a world record for human beat-boxing, etc.) or wacky crowd figures (Abe Lincoln, “The Cowboy,” the rubber men, guy with Christmas lights under his furry coat, etc.).

There are many great things about Art All Night, but ostensibly, the event is about the thousand-or-so objets d’art that manage to make their way into the space that afternoon and up on the panels, or along the walls, or spilled along the floor for the world to see mere hours later.

There is great art, for sure, but in the shotgun blast of raw expression, joke art, quirk, deviance, desire, and beauty that is rushed onto the particle-board panels, it’s the ones that scream the loudest that seem to make the event the most memorable.

It is in that spirit that I thought I’d just feature some great examples of what we consider “classic Art All Night”–whether that speaks to cliche or repetition or simply some base human mode of expression is up for debate. Presented are individual examples of this year’s entries and the various itches they scratch.  Enjoy.  I know I did.

artwork of Pittsburgh skyline in cut paper

Pittsburgh skyline

painting of steel worker with steel mill in background

Steel mills/steel industry

painting of two football players on the field

Sports art/Steelers

painting of Jerry Garcia with a glowing third eye

Skip a little rope, smoke a little dope

line drawing of intertwining pipes

Time to wash the hands (again)

This is nothing to those halcyon days of the early oughts when a guy could cover an entire 8′ x 4′ display panel with an imaginary city, complete with all transit routes and street names, mapped out on graph paper and executed in mechanical pencil.

artwork showing challenges and options for women today


Under-represented this year were the big poster boards loaded up with (literal) ripped-from-the-headlines newspaper clippings (another casualty of the death of print!).  These would often be accessorized by a top layer big message: WAR? or Progress? or Justice? There were some nice sentiments on the evils of bearing children (one complete with a dangling flaccid condom), but it just wasn’t the same.

sculpture of human torso with world map glued to it

Maps/torsos OR “That’s not my belly-button!”

assemblage artwork including a baby doll's head

Doll head/parts assemblage

The doll parts genre this year was impressively (if disappointingly) tasteful. Typically there are numerous crude entries, oft splattered with red paint, grafted in vulgar ways to stray objects, etc.  Sigh.

artwork with tiny clown heads on sticks in jars with mysterious liquid

Science art/tiny clown heads on sticks in jars with mysterious liquid

I love the pseudo-science entries–and this was a fine one–but the genre lacked quantity this year.

two large-size sculptures of robots

Big robots

Artwork with a mannequin dressed like a queen in a clothes washing machine

Mannequin/English royalty/appliance-related

painting of Spock from Star Trek

science fiction

Spoke from Star Trek rendered on an Etch-a-Sketch


sculpture of zombie hand and grave stone in dirt

The evergreen: Pittsburgh loves zombies

painting of female monster eating a human head


painting of woman in her underwear removing a long black glove

Naughty ladies (and the men who like them)

This year’s naughty/nudie art count was way down from any previous event.  In fact, the normally stocked “porn art” entrants must have just sat on their flesh- and boudoir-colored paint cans this year, as there was nary a stray wang or cooter to bat an eye at.

painting of a strange part chicken/part egg creature

Which came first: the chicken or the … ah, jeez

sculpture of woman's head and hand surrounded by silver foil


I heard a number of people remark that it felt like the total amount of art was down from previous years. Maybe that’s true, or maybe it’s just the way the space and panels were used. Either way, my remarks above definitely include a lot of sentiments around missing some old friends.  Ah, well, maybe next year.

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