By Ryan Grewal, news staff
At 2 a.m. Saturday, while most bars were making last calls, students and young people from all over Boston were still partying at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) for this month’s overnight event as a part of #mfaNOW, a program started this fall aimed at attracting younger audiences and featuring events celebrating contemporary art and artists.
Since September, the MFA has opened its doors one night each month for “overnights,” the centerpiece events of #mfaNOW. During the overnights, the museum remains open with free admission from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., filling the normally spacious and quiet galleries.
“Our goal was to attract younger audiences, for people to engage with galleries, art making, dancing, music, food trucks,” said Kristen Hoskins, the museum’s curator of lectures, courses and concerts. “We wanted to show there are multiple avenues to engage with the museum.”
The party centered on the museum’s contemporary wing, where Boston’s 20-something contingent doted from the dance floor to the cash bar, toting cans of PBR and cups of red wine.
The overnights have been more popular than the museum had anticipated. More than 7,000 people attended the first overnight on Sept. 17, according to Hoskins.
The original impetus for #mfaNOW was to highlight Christian Marclay’s 24-hour video collage, “The Clock,” Hoskins said, but the museum shifted its view after seeing the response from Boston’s young people.
In addition to “The Clock,” the program also showcases “UH-OH,” a temporary exhibition of drawings, collages and video installations from throughout the decades-long career of Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Frances Stark.
The MFA’s overnight events fill a void for many in a city full of young people yet notorious for closing early.
“I think a lot of people want more of this, especially because Boston doesn’t have the nightlife of other cities,” said 2011 Northeastern alumnus Alex De Luca. “It’s different than going out to the bars.”
Many spent hours waiting in the windy Boston night as the long line to enter snaked through the museum’s parking lot. Previous overnights featured less organized lines extending the full width of the museum’s Huntington Avenue facade. Mid-2000s indie music filtered out over the huddled crowd. Others outside the museum perused the food trucks parked in the lot.
“I stood here in line, but others left,” said Isaac Levien, a graduate student at Berklee School of Music who said he had been waiting in line for an hour and a half. “I’m cold but I’ve already committed.”
Social media also played a role in the popularity and success of the program, Hoskins said. The Facebook pages for Friday’s overnight provided more than just publicity for the event, also including estimated wait times throughout the night. The name of the program, #mfaNOW, is also an active hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
Ralph Rego and Jorge Jimenez, students at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, are not regular museum-goers, but were attracted to the overnight event after hearing about it from their friends and seeing the event on social media.
“We go [to the museum] once in awhile,” Rego said. “But we saw on Facebook that 2,000 people were going to this.”
Friday’s Overnight also included a political component days before the presidential election. In an auditorium just steps away from the party, the Boston Globe hosted interviews with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former Mitt Romney aide and Republican political consultant Eric Fehrnstrom. James Pindell, political reporter at the Boston Globe, conducted the two interviews, billed as “A Double Session with The Boston Globe.”
Pindell questioned Albright, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, on a number of issues relating to gender in politics. Albright bounced from anecdote to anecdote, engaging the young audience by recounting stories of volunteering for Adlai Stevenson in Boston Common when she was a sophomore at Wellesley College in 1956.
Despite the enthusiastic response, the MFA has not planned any late night programming following the conclusion of #mfaNOW in December, Hoskins said.
“What were going to do is take some time and think about the overnights and how it will impact future programming,” she said.
The final overnight at the MFA will run from 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9 until 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10.
Photo by Lauren Scornavacca