Thursday, May 1, 2008

Looptopia comes back for a second year of late-night art celebrations

by Diana Bae

The Loop will shed its business-only attitude this weekend to show off its more artsy, fun, party-till-the-break-of-dawn side -- literally. The second annual, 14 hour-long Looptopia will start at 5 p.m. Friday and last until past the first light of the next day, finishing at 7 a.m. Saturday.

This year, the event will feature about 150 programs at around 40 different venues from the Chicago River to Congress Parkway and Clark Street to Columbus Drive. Festivities will include art, architecture, theater and dance performances. “It’s an arts and cultural celebration of today’s Loop,” says Ty Tabing, executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, which is organizing the event.

According to Tabing, today’s Loop is a different Loop than of the past generations. “It’s more vibrant after work now,” he says. “It’s a dynamic area and it will continue to be.” Due to the new nature of the area, Looptopia has been able to find a welcome place among Chicagoans. “We’ve been fortunate enough that the art community has embraced us,” Tabing says.

Highlights to expect this year include a new venue at the riverfront, where there will be a performance from the New Millennium Orchestra. Tourist favorite “Cloud Gate” (the Bean) will get company in Millennium Park, where the 2016 Olympic Committee will sponsor a sporting-event exhibition. The Chicago Cultural Center will house a large chunk of the festivities as well.

As the 12th hour rolls around, a giant game of hide-and-seek will be played at Millennium Park. At the same time, the Sunrise Breakfast Retrospective will welcome the new morning with breakfast and an unveiling of works created over the course of the night.

The creation of Looptopia started in 2005 with the formation of the CLA. Looking for “new signature events to promote the Loop,” Tabing says he found inspiration abroad. After learning about “White Night” events (all-night cultural festivals) in major cities like Paris and Rome, the group started Chicago’s own version of the international sensation and came up with Looptopia. “It puts us in a good league with international cities,” he says. “It speaks to how international we’ve become.” Last year’s debut attracted more than 200,000 people and Tabing expects that this year, they will meet if not surpass last year’s numbers. In order to perform better crowd control this year, participants will need to get free wristbands at booths during the events to get into venues after midnight.

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