As the old saying goes, you can’t wear white after Labor Day. Luckily for you, you have one more chance to don your best white linen suit this year— the annual Whitney White Linen Night! This Saturday (8.1). the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, in conjunction with the Arts District of New Orleans, will host the annual art party. Many galleries around Julia Street will be open to the public as a part of the free block party, and both the CAC and Ogden Museum of Southern Art will premier new exhibitions of Louisiana art.
About 21 years ago, the Arts District of New Orleans first debuted White Linen Night. August tends to be a slow time in the arts district, and gallery owners were looking for a way to attract more people to their shows.
“It’s hot, and not a lot of local people we’re coming down to the district during that time of the year,” said Lindsay Owens, Associate Director of External Affairs for the CAC. “They created this event to encourage people to come down on the first Saturday of August and check out their exhibitions. It was really just an expanded art walk. Then, it grew over the years.”
Today, the event attracts over 50,000 people and the CAC has taken the reigns in organizing the event. They now produce the entire Julia Street block party, organize the participating restaurants and bands and set up the bars along the art route.
“CAC came on board to produce it as it got bigger, and then Satchmo Summerfest developed,” Owens explained. “It kind of became a destination even regionally for folks to come in town that weekend and do both Satchmo and Whitney White Linen Night.”
The CAC will also be opening their new exhibition, REVERB: Past, Present, Future. The show, guest curated by Isolde Brielmaier of New York, will feature work from thirty different Louisiana artists.
“I know a lot of folks are doing Katrina-related exhibits, but our uses Katrina as a catalytic event that marks the place in time, but it’s really about what’s happened in New Orleans since then. It’s about the evolution and development of artistic practices in the city since Katrina,” Owens said. “The pieces aren’t necessarily directly related to the hurricane, but they’re really about what the city has going on since then.”
Other galleries that will be hosting shows on White Linen Night include Callan Contemporary, Julie Silvers Art, Jean Bragg Gallery of Southern Art, Stella Jones Gallery and more.
“A few of the ones I’m excited about are Jonathan Ferrera Gallery, Arthur Roger Gallery and LaMieux Galleries,” Owens listed. “All the galleries have really great shows opening, but those would be the three that I would go to besides REVERB if I only had time to go see three.”
The Ogden will also be opening their own show, Contemporary Louisiana, which celebrates contemporary art produced here in Louisiana.
“The main focus is always the art,” Owens said. “The area around Julia Street is one of our top tiers of contemporary art galleries in town, so they often will have either groups shows or one of their really top artists on view that night. So, it’s definitely a place for them to showcase local, regional and international artists.”
Though the focus is the art, there will also be a plethora of food and drink options available throughout the night. The CAC has handpicked some twenty or twenty-five restaurants to provide their signature dishes on the street during the block party. As with every year, they also created a signature cocktail. This year’s is vodka strawberry lemonade. Part of the food proceeds and all of the bar proceeds will go toward supporting year-round programming at the CAC.
New this year is the CAC’s cool-down lounge. Though the actual block party is free, this private spot costs $40 and provides some amenities to beat the heat including Pinkberry, some food, and a bar.
“It’s a separate spot right of the street where you can go if you want to get in the AC or use indoor restrooms and seating,” Owens said. “It’s kind of a place just to pop in and cool down while you’re out on the street.”
After checking out the art, event-goers can head to the CAC for the White Linen Night After Party, which is $10 for the public and free for CAC members. DJ Matty will be bumping tunes from across the decades.
But still, Owens reminded, the event is really about the art.
“It’s really hard to go and check out all these galleries, so it’s a good reason just to go and hit all of them in one night,” Owens said. “It’s a really great chance to see the top tier sampling of what’s going on if you only have time to make it out occasionally to see the galleries.”