By Tara Bennett
From commercial holdings along Florida Blvd. to neighborhood mom-and-pop retail operations, from the turn-of-the-century, row lined houses in Eden Park to the larger residences of the Garden District, from N. 19th Baptist Church to the Capitol Park, the Mid City area, in a sense, is a reflection of the Baton Rouge community. On Friday, Nov. 20, this area will sparkle and shine for its annual tradition, White Light Night.
Since 1998, the Mid City Merchants Association has put on this premiere art festival on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and encourages the BR community to come and experience the sights, sounds and shopping of this unique neighborhood.
“The art hop started with just a smidgeon of folks who had galleries like Mary Ann Caffery and Liz Walker of Elizabethan Gallery and Nancy and Brenda-original owners of Rue Cou Cou, but is now located behind Circa 1957 and there are new owners as well as Dee Dee Culotta of Victoria’s Toy Station,” said Sharon Furrate Bailey, this year’s co-chair. “They wanted to showcase artists in the area so it started with between four to six merchants and now it has grown from anywhere between 55 to 65 Mid City Merchants businesses.”
White Light Night has seen huge growth since its inception in 1998, now drawing 15,000 visitors, including travelers from outside the city limits as far as Shreveport and Alexandria.
“Word has spread to outlying cities because it is that much fun,” said Bailey. “It is free for people to attend and it is a great way to energize one’s own creative juices.”
According to Bailey, many businesses decorate their storefront with white lights for the festival, which makes it very festive. While an art crawl, there are many businesses that participate who are not gallery owners such as Ragusa’s Automotive, Violet Lotus Studio, Superior Grill, Calandro’s Supermarket, MJ’s Cafe, Woodhaven Furniture and more.
“The Art Committee for the Mid City Merchants Association helps those businesses that need artists find artists,” said Bailey. “The artist can be a painter, sculpture artist, jewelry artist, etc.”
Throughout the night, nice soothing jazz music or classic rock will spill into the streets as businesses play host to local bands and musicians. Wine, and appetizers are typically found at each location, but be on the lookout for Smashburger, Mestizo’s and Cupcake Allie who will be bringing their food trucks out for the event. For many of the artists involved with the event, the evening will grant them a great amount of exposure as people gear up to start their holiday shopping.
“This event is a great opportunity for not only well-known artists in the community to interface with the public but it is a wonderful way for emerging artists to get known by the public,” said Bailey. “This event in 2008 put me on the map as an artist by featuring my work in the Advocate. So I love that new artists or emerging ones can have the chance to show their work and get to know people.”
According to Bailey, people should prepare for the event and try to park by 5:30 p.m. because that’s when everything starts getting jammed on Jefferson Highway and Government Street. Brochures with included maps showcase all participants and the route with shuttle bus stops. Gerry Lane vans will also be available to help transport people too.
The event is free and open to the public and runs from 6-10 p.m. For more information, call Bailey at 225-954-7991 or visit midcitymerchants.org.