After years of decline, Art Night is officially dead.
The founder and organizer, Mitch Messmore, announced on his Facebook page that Art Night had made “its last appearance” last Friday.
The monthly Friday night program ran well at first. By 2008, a year after the program began, about 1,000 people were regularly attending Art Night events each month.
Then Messmore moved to Beirut, Lebanon. He tried to run the program from afar, to no avail.
“When I was here, it was easy for me to run around, harangue the business owners: Give me your information and I’ll get you listed,” he said. “As volunteers fell off and some venues got tied up with operating their businesses … things slowed down a bit. Not being in the country didn’t make it any easier.”
In his absence, fewer and fewer venues had offered specific art events. Once, almost every business had a visual artist or a musician performing during Art Night, and many also offered specials. Now, there are a few restaurants that offer live music every Friday — but no one offers something just for Art Night.
Messmore came back last year, but his heart was no longer in it.
“I have a full-time job, so I can’t put as much time into Art Night as I did in the past,” he said.
He no longer had a cadre of volunteers, and the business owners had to be persuaded anew to organize special events.
“Sometimes it’s felt like pulling teeth,” he said, adding, “It has been a one-man show.”
And he was no longer passionate about Art Night, either.
“I have so many other projects I want to work on,” he said, talking eagerly of an international venture in which he and other musicians each lay down a track and then send their music on to the next person for his or her additions.
“A little virtual jamming,” he said.
But he added that he doesn’t want Art Night to die — he just wants his baby to grow into “a healthy adult.”
He’s hoping someone with passion and excitement will take over the unpaid job of running the event.
“Hopefully make it bigger and better than it has been for the past year,” he said.
He is already in talks with one possible successor who responded to his Facebook resignation.
“Six years is, I think, a noble effort,” he said. “It’s time. If someone wants to take it over, wonderful.”
Some merchants are hoping Art Night is resurrected.
Richard Genest, owner of the Moon and River Cafe, said the event was so loved that he still sees Art Night customers.
“The memory of it is quite strong and many people think it is still going,” he said. “It was very democratic in that it allowed participation by many, many people and I would be very happy to see it revived.”