Air Your Dirty Laundry

Dirty Linen Night draws art appreciators to the French Quarter

The iron balconies of the French Quarter, dripping with ferns and history, are simply iconic. From postcards to Popeye’s commercials, when you see those balconies you instantly reference New Orleans. This Saturday come see them for yourself during Dirty Linen Night.

On Aug. 12 Dirty Linen Night will spread across the 200 to 1000 blocks of Royal Street — as well as in Dutch Alley and along Jackson Square. The free evening art event runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and nearly 40 galleries and shops are participating.

The name Dirty Linen Night is a riff on Whitney’s White Linen Night, which precedes the event by a week. Attendees are encouraged to re-wear their finest white linen without laundering it between weekends, and many galleries will decorate their entrances with laundry baskets and clotheslines in honor of the theme. Some will even offer free dirty martinis and dirty rice, in addition to wine and other snacks. Royal Street jeweler Linda Sampson is credited with creating the name that has inspired décor and costumes for 15 years.

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More than just art is on display and available for purchase. Every year features different street performers and musicians. Mimes, dancers and DJs have entertained the crowds as they made their way along Royal. Special food and cocktails will also be on offer from vendors and restaurants.

You can start at either end of Royal Street, which runs parallel with Bourbon Street, one block closer to the Mississippi River. I recommend beginning in the 1000 block, where things are more quiet, and zigzagging across the street to visit each open gallery and store. The streets are blocked off to accommodate the 10,000 attendees expected.

The galleries on Royal are world-renowned for curating local and international talent. From traditional landscapes to funky found object works, the art is inspiring. Through the years I have purchased woodblock prints, oil paintings, watercolors, pottery and jewelry. Truth be told, my favorite Dirty Linen Night buy is probably my “Big Freedia In Your Pocket” talking keychain. Girl down!

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The list of official 2017 participants is on the website and organized by block, although often more galleries and stores will be open than those that are listed. Don’t miss the haunting photographs of Frank Relle at 910 Royal; the fantastical sculptures at Lucky Rose Gallery at 840 Royal; the paintings in Gallery Orange at 819 Royal; and the famous Blue Dog at the George Rodrigue Gallery at 730 Royal.

Royal Street is approximately 320 feet and one million miles away from Bourbon Street. The posh antiques and creative energy flowing from the retail spaces of Royal contrast with the neon lights and matching libations of Bourbon. It has always intrigued me that these two streets are so different in character, yet situated so closely to one another. They are like fraternal twins who hate each other.

Wear your dirty clothes and comfortable shoes, and don’t forget your umbrella. For those of you who travel light or may be in search of a gift, keep in mind that the galleries will ship your purchases. 

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