What began as a spoof a dozen years ago has evolved into a full-scale, serious art event in its own right, showcasing local artists and businesses in the heart of the French Quarter.
Taking its cue from the success of White Linen Night in the Warehouse District, Dirty Linen Night was conceived as a way of stimulating commerce in what’s normally a dead time of year for art sales: the middle of summer.
The 12th Annual Dirty Linen Night Presented by Iberia Bank will take place Saturday in the art galleries and antiques and craft shops of the 200 to 1000 blocks of Royal Street. Also participating are galleries and shops on nearby side streets and in Dutch Alley, on North Peters Street, opposite the French Market.
The free event is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and as many as 60 galleries and other businesses are expected to participate. Nine blocks of Royal Street are barricaded during that three-hour span, allowing participants to stroll the normally busy thoroughfare unimpeded.
Tracy Thomson, proprietor of Kabuki Hats in the Dutch Alley Co-Op, has been on board with Dirty Linen Night since the beginning. It was her idea back in the early 2000s. Since then, she has watched with pride and satisfaction as the event grew to attract thousands of patrons.
“When we started out it was held in only one gallery on Royal Street,” Thomson said. “We had a marketing meeting at my house, trying to figure out how we could bring people onto Royal Street in the dead of summer, and we came up with the idea of Dirty Linen Night.”
However, the first year was nearly the last. The event took place during the annual Red Dress Run and, as Thomson recalled, “The moment we opened the gallery to the public, all the runners came in and drank all the booze and ate all the food, so we didn’t have any left for our customers.”
Based on that experience, when the second year came around, none of the original participants wanted to take part again.
“I wanted to keep it going, so I opened it up to everyone else,” Thomson explained. During Dirty Linen Night, art lovers and casual strollers are invited to visit participating galleries and shops. Tourists add to the mix of locals and are often the best customers, Thomson noted.
To add to the fun, some of the participating businesses give away treats such as dirty martinis and dirty rice. Some shops even set laundry baskets outside their doors for soiled white linens from the week before, adding a touch of whimsy to Dirty Linen Night.
Food and beverage stands are set up in the middle of Royal Street, and musicians and street performers who regularly display their skills on the street are encouraged to come out and perform.
Last year, Thomson turned over her trademark and other proprietary rights over the festival to the Arts Council of New Orleans. In addition to arranging presenting sponsorship from Iberia Bank, ACNO has re-branded the event “Dirty Linen: One Hot Night!”
Lindsay Glatz, ACNO’s director of marketing, spoke about some of the changes and additions made by ACNO since assuming control over the event.
One of them is the after-party from 9 p.m. to midnight at Latrobe’s in the 400 block of Royal Street at the corner of Conti. For a $30 admission, patrons will have access to unlimited cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, music by Deejay Matty, the NOLA Jitterbug Dancers and two drag queen performances.
Tickets can be purchased online at the ACNO website, or on the night of the event from a tent at Conti and Royal streets. They are also on sale at the door to Latrobe’s.
“It’s a great way for people to cool off on a hot night,” Glatz said.