On Saturday, December 14th, fifty four strangers from across the Bay Area gathered around one long table at Impact HUB Oakland (IHO). As people walked in off Broadway St. in downtown Oakland, they entered a warm space filled with flowers, flickering candles, and a variety of art supplies strewn across the table. They gathered together for LATE NITE ART, a monthly social art event that combines collaborative art-making, delicious food, and facilitated discussion to unleash creativity and create community within the San Francisco Bay Area.
LNA was born during my experience as an art teacher at Interagency Southwest Academy, an alternative program for students kicked out of Seattle’s public schools. As I struggled to find new ways to inspire my disengaged students I discovered the following: every person loves to make art; however, most have been traumatized at some point in their lives and need a safe and encouraging environment to develop, what IDEO founder David Kelley calls, “creative confidence.”
The key to unleashing the creativity in my students is nearly the same recipe I have used with over 1000 participants at LNA events. Here are the ingredients: a supportive group culture that encourages vulnerability and risk-taking, soulful gourmet food, good music that accentuates the experience, and a skillful facilitator to lead the process. What happens next is magic: barriers and judgments melt away, self-proclaimed “non-artists” and “uncreative” people begin having fun creating art, and participants deeply connect with one another. This is the essence of LATE NITE ART.
The first LNA event in the Bay Area was held on May 3rd, 2012 inside a converted warehouse (called Chthonic Theater) in Oakland’s Jingletown district. The evening was filled with experimentation, including the menu of crickets served in local honey and rabbit-pot-pies. Since then, LNA has thrown twenty-six events, in four different countries, and sixteen cities worldwide. We have worked with a myriad of local Bay Area organizations such as Impact HUB Oakland, The David Brower Center, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; as well as multinational corporations Humana Health Care Company, and in the near future, IDEO Design Firm – all within our goal of spreading creativity, collaboration, and human connection.
LATE NITE ART 24: In The Dark (our twenty-fourth event) was held just a week before the Winter Solstice. On this exciting evening in December, Ashara Ekundayo, IHO Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, joined me as co-facilitator and thought partner. A week before the event Ashara and I stayed up until two in the morning discussing the theme “In the Dark.” We shared stories about our shadows, the masks we wear in society, and the things we like to do “in the dark.” On the night of the event we decided to push the envelope – asking participants to draw while looking into each others eyes, leading a guided meditation over the sounds of the vibrant Amazonian Rainforest, and finally, asking folks to draw a recent romantic experience that happened with the lights out. Needless to say, we had a blast! (check out the photos below)
A beautiful partnership has developed between LATE NITE ART and Impact HUB Oakland. As IHO has become the epicenter in the East Bay for creative entrepreneurship, cross-cultural collaboration, and innovation – LNA has become a vehicle to put these principles into action over the course of one wild evening. At IHO I found the fuel and mentorship I needed to grow LNA into a sustainable social enterprise that works at the community, non-profit, and corporate levels.
LATE NITE ART leads a monthly social art party in the Bay Area, as well as corporate team building workshops, private parties, and conferences with large groups across the country. For more information about our events, visit www.lateniteart.com.
Your LATE NITE ART host,