One week ago the Organization of American States tried their hand for the first time at an “after hours” event at the Art Museum of the Americas. The result: all 440 tickets sold, and a successful launch into the up-and-coming scene of hip museum parties.
Kudos to the event planners for figuring out just the right number to keep the place full but not too crowded. Because this was the first “After Dark,” we asked everyone we met how they ended up getting there. The most common answer, “a friend.” Trace the connections and we’d invariably end up with a story that starts with a friend on the board here or at some other museum. That probably helped explain the crowd a bit. Compared to what we’ve seen at other events like this, this crowd was just a bit older (though still young). That is to say, these were young professionals, not just recent grads. A bit more reserved and put together — some of the outfits were pretty impressive and everyone was wearing nice shoes.
Still though, this was a crowd reflective of an event still seeking identity. Consider this scene: Exactly, a band made up of local artist Adrian Parsons, Cole Sharp, and Jesse Bishop, setting up headless mannequins, stringing rope lights, adjusting their instruments, and taking off, then putting back on, their v-neck shirts. The lead singer, Parsons, looks absolutely crazy, shaggy, messy, sweaty. There’s an uncomfortable distance, an 8-foot gulf between the band and the crowd of polite looking 20-somethings, many of them still in jackets and ties from their work day. They shuffle and chat and drink and watch. Then, one of the band members takes out his iPad, plugs it in, and starts playing Yeasayer.
We spoke with a few people responsible for putting on the event, and it seems that the identity issue (we don’t think we’d call it a problem, really — just growing pains) extends all the way up. We were told that the event’s main goals were to 1) develop the interests of a younger crowd and 2) develop interest in Latin American art. But here’s the problem: the walls were conspicuously empty.
Dorothy, a woman who was taking it upon herself to bring more, well, dancing, to the space on the first floor where DJ Smudge was spinning, was coming from the Decatur House. She asked the question that had been plaguing us as we traversed through the museum, “Where the hell is all the art?” Video installations were set up on each floor, but the rooms were devoid of any information on the pieces or their artists, so their origins were unknown (though some limited information was included in the projections themselves.) That didn’t stop people from crowding in to watch the exhibits, and we understand that the costs for hosting an event in a museum full of wall-hanging art are much higher than in a museum with art that no one can drunkenly disturb, but part of the appeal of these events is rooted in the ability to experience art in a less-than-formal museum setting.
Ultimately, it was the performances and not the showcase of art that defined the evening: out in the courtyard, a skilled Latin American drummer played different percussion instruments to accompany a backing track as people mingled around, drinking beer and wine. The outdoor part felt the most cohesive and thematic — professionals spoke in different languages and enjoyed the breeze.
Inside, Exactly took the stage at 10 pm to do a soundcheck, and then disappeared for about 15 minutes, leaving a room full of buzzed young professionals to stand around feeling uncomfortable. The band re-emerged in skinny jeans, covered in fake blood, to do a set that started off with a bold proclamation: “We’re not a fucking electro-pop band!” Bold because Exactly is made up of two keyboards and a drumset, but they delivered to the crowds expectations with men in blazers and girls in expensive sundresses letting loose and dancing, eventually playing air guitar with mannequin legs shaking hair everywhere.
Downstairs and outside, the older members of the board and other guests continued to mingle as the sounds of drumming and throaty singing blasted through the museum’s windows.
We’re told that this is planned to be a recurring event — we’re already excited for next time.
Of Interest: Video of Exactly playing their last song [Vimeo]