There’s a timer on the front page of the newly revamped website for Dirty Linen Night counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Saturday.
That countdown is worth keeping an eye on: The French Quarter-based art and social event will be a little different this year from what you’ve experienced in the past.
Of course, everyone knows the backstory: Dirty Linen Night was conceived as a looser, more irreverent version of the previous week’s White Linen Night, an excuse to get one more wearing out of that wine-splattered seersucker suit and drink and mingle with a downtown crowd that maybe didn’t take the proceedings quite so seriously.
Over the past decade and a half, however, it’s become as much of an institution as White Linen Night itself — with the crowd control issues to match.
Under the purview of the Arts Council of New Orleans for the past couple of years, the event is now coordinated by event production company My House NOLA .
Visitors can expect to see a number of changes in this year’s Dirty Linen Night geared toward avoiding street traffic snarls and putting a stronger focus on the event’s raison d’etre: the art exhibitions and special events taking place at more than 50 galleries, restaurants and businesses on Royal Street.
My House NOLA CEO and founder Barrie Schwartz sees this year’s changes as a continuation of what’s made Dirty Linen Night special to begin with.
“Dirty Linen Night started 14 years ago as a fun way to encourage locals to come to Royal Street in the heat of the summer,” Schwartz said. “And we’re excited to accomplish that same goal this year.”
Perhaps not unexpectedly for a company that made its name by coordinating food truck appearances at public and private events across the city, a new way of presenting drink offerings at Dirty Linen Night is a key part of this year’s changes.
“In creating this year’s event, we listened to feedback of the galleries, who said they wanted more access to pedestrians on the street,” Schwartz said. “So we’ve created more of a flow for pedestrians to get inside galleries by moving the beverage stations away from galleries.”
Cocktail stations will be set up in the galleries themselves, and NOLA Brewing will be serving up suds in tents along Royal Street.
Schwartz also said that this year’s Dirty Linen Night will once again dovetail with another new New Orleans tradition that has likewise been attracting bigger crowds every year.
“We’ve benefited from sharing the date of our celebration with the Red Dress Run,” Schwartz said. “And we’re taking that a step further by having the Dirty Red Linen Night after party at House of Blues.”
As for those art offerings, highlights will include an opening of artist Layla Messkoub’s “Botanical Explorations” at the Foundation Gallery, 1109 Royal, benefiting the Mini Art Center in Algiers, and some promised “dirty-themed fun” and food tastings among the Picassos and Warhols at Martin Lawrence Gallery, 433 Royal.
But just about every open storefront along the eight-block stretch of Royal Street will be featuring something to entice Dirty Linen Night revelers.
“Each gallery and business is really excited to showcase new shows and things for people to experience and purchase,” Schwartz said. “We can’t wait until Aug. 8.”
John d’Addario writes about art. He can be reached at email@example.com.