Art All Night, the District’s free annual overnight arts festival, returned to Shaw on Saturday night, Sept. 25. Art All Night started in Shaw in 2011. It has since become a city-wide tradition. This year’s Art All Night, held in 18 different commercial districts around the city, marks the return of a live, in-person festival after the District was forced to make it a virtual event last year due to the pandemic.
Shaw’s Art All Night focused on a vacant lot, known as Parcel 42, on the southeast corner of Seventh and R Streets NW. It served as the festival’s welcome center, art market for local artists and a performance stage for live acts. The stage saw performances from Art All Night Shaw veterans, Grammy-nominated, human beatbox Christylez Bacon and pyrotechnic soap bubble blower Jennifer Stephens, as well as first-timers vocalist Ace Ono and her band and martial arts and dance performances by the Brazilian American Cultural Center’s Capoeira Barro Vermelho and the Vava Samba School. Renowned video artist Robin Bell projected a new work commissioned for the festival on the five-story white wall behind the stage, celebrating that the District is once again open for business. Creative Junk Food’s #LoveShaw animation was also projected. A crowd surrounded muralist Aniekan Udofa as he completed a minimural with the theme “Welcome Back” featuring the festival’s owl mascot.
Across the intersection, the Watha T. Daniel Library was another hive of activity. On the first floor were youth-oriented activities, including an Evil Laugh contest. In the basement, artist Sydney Buffalo led a “Paint In,” where anyone could get a canvas and paint to do their own artwork. Would-be artists lined up during the night to get a seat to get to work.
Performance artist Shanna “Shae” Lim marched down Seventh Street NW in a dress made of carpet until she got to the library entrance plaza. Then she dropped the dress and became a human canvas, inviting bystanders to paint messages on her as a drummer provided a background beat. WeActRadio projected “Resilient Together,” a revolutionary visual and audio mixtape southward across Rhode Island Avenue NW. The most excitement was provided by Batala Washington DC, the women’s drumming group. They started with a performance at T Street NW, moved south with the #Love Shaw Parade along the west sidewalk, drawing a crowd that overflowed onto Seventh Street NW, ending up in front of Watha T. Daniel to perform a rousing percussion set.
Almost the entirety of the south side of the 600 block of T Street NW was taken up by the Right Proper Brewing Block Party, which featured a night of live music, art displays and drinking. Of note was the Black Beer Garden near the Duke Ellington statue, which featured African American brewing companies: Sankofa Beer, Soul Mega, Joyhound Beer, Patuxent Brewing and Urban Garden Brewing. Around the corner, Wanda’s on 7th salon presented paintings by Reggie Gilliumo and free henna tattoos, with music provided by DJ Candikrush. At the Lee on 11th, formerly known as Lincoln Temple, the Shaw Community Center presented a lineup of motivational speakers, music, youth fashion shows and even a professional wrestling demonstration.
The Washington Convention Center offered a guided tour of its distinguished art collection, which includes works of famed artists Sol LeWitt and Carrie Mae Weems, along with a wall devoted solely to art works depicting Shaw. Nearby at the Sunoco Gas Station, Maggie O’Neill, Nia Ketura Calhoun and Lisa Marie Thalhammer, the artists completing the giant mural “Together” there, live painted large panels in their signature styles.
Lee’s Flower and Card Shop played dance music and held a flower fashion show. The shop also provided flowers for festival goers to create their own floral leis and crowns, which could be seen along U Street and at festival venues. Other businesses presenting art and entertainment included Shaw’s Tavern and the Urban Athletic Club.
The DC Housing Finance Agency building at Ninth Street and Florida Avenue NW once again served as the venue for Team Rayceen, which presented “Shaw Shakes and Shimmies,” offering music, burlesque acts and an audience dance off contest, with the winners receiving gift bags from erotic emporium Bite the Fruit.
“The pandemic made it necessary to reduce the size of the crowds and insist that masks be worn indoors and outdoors, but it was a small price to pay for being able to welcome everyone back to Shaw, where Art All Night began,” remarked Shaw Main Streets Executive Director Alexander Padro, who cofounded the festival in 2011. “The festival has spread throughout the city, but Shaw will always be Art All Night DC’s home.”