Aug 02 2011

Dirty linen night

By: Briana Prevost

White linen’s More Casual French Quarter Follow up

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Fresh wine, and a sea of white linen may characterize the Warehouse/ Arts District the first weekend in August, but bring that crowd down in the Quarter exactly one week later, and things might get a little dirty.

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary on Aug. 13, Dirty Linen Night started small in 2001, only taking place in the 100, 800 and 900 blocks, of Royal Street. But as word spread and the success of the night became more popular, producers JoAnn Abbott Saxton, Laurie Toups and Tyra Brown have coordinated and crafted Dirty Linen Night as an alternative to White Linen Night.

“The idea was to take your wine stained linen from the week before, get a cocktail, and come buy that art piece or that chandelier you’ve always wanted,” says Rachel Vella, a co-producer for the event. “We love the fact that we’re not formal.”

Dirty Linen Night has since grown to include every block of art galleries along Royal Street who opt in to participate. Coordination for an event this size calls for “block captains” on each participating block, ensuring all paperwork is filed and all costs are covered before the event.

Greg Creason, owner of Studio 831 serves as this year’s captain for the 500 block of Royal. Gallery Representative for Studio 831, Jamie Koch, says that it’s block captains duties to ensure that every gallery that participates must agree to the terms of the night.

Such terms include staying open past normal business hours from 6 p.m. -10 p.m. and signing a petition to close the street. “Business has been slow,” Koch says. “So, hopefully, this will drum up some business from locals to buy. Most places along Royal close after dinner time, and tourists like to romp around these streets long after we’re closed.”

Though not all, many galleries along Royal are planning to offer special deals for the event. Fred Elliot, owner of Elliot Gallery that specializes in showing international European artists and museum collection pieces, says he always has a special for Dirty Linen Night of 20 percent off or no tax on all original art. “Most of my business is from out of state,” Elliot says, “so that’s why we have the sale during [Dirty Linen Night] because we get more local people. All of this is great for the French Quarter; the more locals that know about us, the better.” Other galleries such as Kako Gallery expect to offer free wine and food, and give discounts if they are able to from permission of the artists, says Catherine Coe, Kako Gallery manager. However one gallery in particular has something quite special they wish to debut this year on Dirty Linen Night.

The Blackett-Peck Gallery in the 500 block of Royal Street has been preparing to completely reconstruct and install a sculpted life-sized hollow tree, made completely of broken glass bottles. Since the gallery was temporarily closed during the creation of the sculpture, Gallery Director, Caroline Prechter, says the finished product of the tree, which is positioned to be constructed along one entire sidewall, will be used as a “welcoming back” during Dirty Linen Night. She commissioned Mexican fine artist, Andres Basurto, to complete the sculpture.

Basurto, most specifically known for his sculptures of glass skulls, used to represent the fragility of life and people’s attempts to keep life within their grasps, will attempt to use emptied glass bottles of all types to install the tree, which hasn’t proved an easy task for Prechter.

“We don’t recycle in the French Quarter, you know,” Prechter says with a laugh. ”And Target is the only place who carries recyclable glass, and they won’t give it to me. So, I’ve been having to go to bars in the Quarter and Mid-City and beg for empty beer bottles.”

But the constructed life-sized glass bottle tree isn’t the only new spectacle taking place this year at Dirty Linen Night. For the first time in its history, the producers of the festival put a call out only to artists who show or have shown on Royal Street to design an official 10th Anniversary Dirty Linen Night poster, which will be on display in every official gallery in participation of the event.

According to Vella, the winning artist will be compensated for his or her design and a limited number of posters will be printed for individual sale during the festival.

“[Dirty Linen Night] is such an exciting time to come into the French Quarter and do some shopping,” Vella says. “It’s all about the local artists, but also local shopping. It’s always a surprise of what’s gonna happen and you never know who’s going to show up.”

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