Art After Dark: All The Cool Kids Are Doing It

You can drink. You can eat. You can dance. You can feel really sophisticated, or if you choose - look like "that guy" on the dance floor.

We're talking about some niche parties in Connecticut that are bringing the old people's pasttime to our generation.

When I first heard about the Museum After Dark party at the New Britain Museum of American Art, I'll be honest - I didn't have very high expectations. I'm a 20-something who can't even draw stick figures, so why go to a museum?

But duty called and I figured I'd check it out and report in to you on it. Besides, it's the hot trend in NYC, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

What I discovered blew my mind. It was a young and hip crowd. After a coupon, I paid $12 to get in. That covered me for all of the finger food I wanted to eat, along with wine and beer. There was a local DJ and a group art project. The galleries were all open, the ladies were looking good and the guys were laid back and fun.

Morgan Fippinger runs the program. She said it's exactly what they were aiming for.

"We opened our new building in 2006," she said. "Our director and chairman of the board at the time said we need to get young people into it. And we said, OK, we need some money. And he said, I'll make you a deal - whatever you spend, you have to make."

The first party was in 2006. About 80 people attended - many were friends of the museum staff. After that, it blew up.

"Last year, our Halloween party, we had more than 100 people," she said. "When we started a page on Facebook, people really just went crazy. And it's great for the museum - free marketing, and we're bringing in a young crowd - and they're loving the art!  They're really interested in what we have going on, not just the bar."

It's just one of the many events catering towards a relatively untapped crowd.

Real Art Ways in Hartford is going after more of a mixed audience with the Creative Cocktail Hour. It's held the third Thursday of every month and has been going on for more than six years.

"We bring in people who self-define as creative. People who have creative thoughts and talk about creative things," said Will K. Wilkins, executive director of Real Art Ways. "That's the defining thing that we're looking for in people. It crosses all demographic barriers and lines. We have young, old, black, white, Latino, straight, gay and transgender people. We bring in a true urban mix."

Admission is $10 and it exposes you to food, drink, music and creative randomness.

"We've had electric bicycle rides in here. We once had a local hairdresser come in and cut people's hair for free. We have no limits," he said.

No limits, besides creativity.

"We're a serious gallery. We have contemporary art, a movie theater, cinema, music and performance," said Wilkins. "We think about creating a creative moment. When the real strength of the creative folks in this community can come together."

ARTSPACE UNDERGROUND in New Haven has launched its own after dark parties, and they're targeting the college students and 20-somethings.

Their latest endeavor features the musical workings of a local group named Kings and a big-kids puppet show by Kim Mikenis. 

Jemma Williams, the organizer, said the event takes advantage of New Haven's nightlife and the young college community.

"We have a lot of bars and clubs in New Haven," she said. "We wanted to offer something with the appeal of a dance club and the appeal of art."

She credits the creation of the after hours parties to a student from Yale who worked at the gallery over the summer.

"He proposed the idea to us for how to draw in a more college-aged crowd," she said. "We feel we have a great selection of art to offer -- 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. is when people are going out after dinner but before they party for the night. It's perfect."

And so is admission. It's $2.You can't even get a coffee for $2 anymore.

On top of the live entertainment and drink specials, you'll also get a coupon for a free drink after the event.

"We partnered with John at 116 Crown. You can cash in the ticket at his bar after the event to continue your evening. It's a win-win for everybody," she said.

Williams said so far, the concept is taking off.

"We're not Toads or BAR, but we're trying to bring something new and exciting."  

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