Weekend Warrior: InsomniACK
Alison Shriberg

It would seem reasonable to assume that someone who calls herself a “Weekend Warrior” comes to the island relentlessly, regardless of work obligations, weather, or traffic. She makes it her business to be where the action is. She analyzes the relationships between tourists, summer residents, and locals; and strives to make sense of the nuances, oddities, and magic that make up a Nantucket summer.

Last year that role came as naturally to me as fog to Nantucket. Every week I counted the minutes to get to the island and immerse myself in local events. I felt part of the community. Still, I understood I was in no way a local. I enjoyed my unique status.

This summer I have been, at best, a Wimpy Weekend Warrior. In June and July, rain dampened my drive to leave the house. A heat wave in August pushed me north to Canada for two weeks. It’s no wonder that when I came to the island the last weekend in August, I felt like an outsider and a bit of a traitor.

My shame hit hard when I bumped into Gene, that Mahon about Town, at the InsomniACK event on Friday, August 28th. As I watched him snap pictures of local artists showing their work, children making pipe-cleaner art, and revelers enjoy the free wine, I realized that InsomniACK was the ideal event for a weekend warrior to cover.

I was bACK.

InsomniACK was the brainchild of Elisabeth Hazell, a dear friend and half-Canadian. Every February since its inception in 2003, Elisabeth has attended Montreal’s Nuit Blanche (French for White Night or All-Nighter), an arts festival in which museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions stay open all night. Elisabeth even brings those Nantucket friends along who appreciate art enough to brave negative 40 degree weather.

Elisabeth dubbed Nantucket’s Nuit Blanche “InsomniACK”. It was not an “all-nighter” or, thankfully, negative 40, but it was an event that kept people out and about until midnight celebrating the beginning of the 17th Annual Nantucket Arts Festival.

InsomniACK was designed to get people to engage with the arts. Galleries stayed open after hours, luring newcomers with wine and cheese. Local artists displayed their work at the Preservation Institute: Nantucket (P.I.N.). The pieces ranged from watercolors of Nantucket landscapes to abstract contemporary art.

The back room of P.I.N. was where visitors became contributors. Children – and adults – transformed colorful pipe cleaners into art in a collaborative installation strung from the ceiling. The blackboard on the wall was covered with paper on which people could mark their territory. Kids drew stick figures and signed them. Even artist George Davis got in on the action by drawing one of his signature seagulls.

The highlight of the back room was the button making station, where people hovered over a heavy-duty button-making machine, waiting to transform magazine clippings into wearable art. These quarter-sized pins were way cooler than anything from Newbury Comics and each one was as unique as the person who made it.

The evening officially ended at midnight with a raffle for $1000. Raffle tickets were designed as “passports” that had to be stamped by four galleries. That was the easy part. Harder was that in order to win the loot, you had to show up for the midnight drawing. The incentive plan separated the fair-weather friends (yes, it did start raining at 11) from the true insomniACKs.

InsomniACK exemplified the limitless talent and determination of the Nantucket community. For event Chair Elisabeth Hazell, it was an ambitious labor of love. She spent hundreds of hours planning and executing the details. Sometimes she wondered if she could pull it off. Fortunately for us, she more than made it happen. She planted the seeds for an annual event that has the potential to grow like Rosa Rugosa and keep the whole island up all night.

Ali Shriberg resides in Boston and comes to Nantucket whenever she can, which, during the summer, is every weekend. A true ‘Weekend Warrior,’ she brings to the newsletter the perspective of an off-islander, yet is familiar with the local scene, as many of her friends are year-round residents. Ali is a corporate trainer specializing in public speaking and presentation skills, and tutors students of all ages and abilities in writing.

Earlier columns by Ali:
A Reason to Rock off the Rock
A Little Night Music on Nantucket
Grace Potter on Nantucket
Inspiration in a Greenhouse

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