Sacramento’s midtown comes alive with art lovers on the Second Saturday of each month when area art galleries hold their openings. The Sacramento Art Commission and the City of Sacramento put together this gallery premier night over 10 years ago, and it has done nothing but grow in popularity since. But, is Second Saturday really the best way to see Sacramento’s art or is it just a big, chaotic, midtown street party?
When Second Saturday began it was the perfect way for art lovers to look at nearly everything a local artist had to offer. Newspapers provided maps of galleries and one could sit down and plot out a course to see their favorite galleries and artists. Many galleries would offer free wine and hors d’oeuvres and there was plenty of time and space to explore the art and visit with the artist. For years it was one of Sacramento’s most enjoyable evenings out. Restaurants would open their doors and provide patio service; live bands would play on the street corners creating a fun, festive environment. It was an open invitation for anyone, art lovers and non-art lovers, to come out and see that Sacramento was capable of providing it’s residence with taste of culture.
Year after year the crowds began to grow. Street vendors began setting up and selling their goods; more bands would show up and play in the street abd the crowds got a little more colorful as time when on. Street entertainers, magicians, jugglers or roving bands of drummers became a normal sight on Second Saturday. What began as a night for gallery openings became somewhat of a mini Marti-gras. The galleries were still open and most people did come for the art, but the sheer number of people, including those with a lack of common sense, started to stir up some complaints.
Gallery owners and artists began to complain about the number of intoxicated people flooding into the galleries making it near impossible to have a true conversation with the artist. As for the artwork itself, sales began to suffer, as did the safety of the artwork itself. Imagine working long hours on a sculpture, pouring your soul into a piece only to have it knocked over or dropped by an inebriated suburbanite getting their monthly dose of culture. The artists weren’t the only ones complaining. Residents in midtwon Sacramento began to complain about the traffic, parking and noise that carried on long after the festivities ended, which was officially at 9:00pm. Faithful patrons of the galleries were put off by the rowdy crowds and longed for the days when it was all about the art, not the party. Public intoxication and fights became common and in 2010 a fatal shooting nearly put an end to monthly event for good.
But it didn’t. The City of Sacramento in cooperation the city police reevaluated the situation. They began to enforce stricter security and stricter rules for vendors and entertainers. Galleries began opening and closing earlier to allow families and true art lovers to enjoy the evening without the threat of the nighttime party crowd. And it seemed to be working. Second Saturday has once again become a place where people can safely come out and enjoy midtown galleries and restaurants. In addition, the galleries are now offering Preview Thursdays, an opportunity for those who want a quiet look at art before the party begins. This gives the artists time to connect with their clients, and art lovers a chance to explore the art and visit with the artist. You may even find some free wine and hors d’oeurves. Although this Sacramento event has seen its ups and downs, it continues to provide entertainment for Sacramento art lovers.