In place of its monthly Arts Walk, the city of Riverside hosted the “Long Night of Arts and Innovation” Oct. 4. As a fan of both artistic and innovative things, I soon hopped onto one of the free trolleys conveniently provided by UCR. After a ride downtown, I was dropped off by Culver Center and quickly stepped into an excited hubbub of crowds, commotion and plenty of fascinating demonstrations.
Although the sheer amount of stuff to see at the event felt a little overwhelming at first, the area was well-planned and easy to navigate. After a quick stop at an information table for a map, I stopped by one of the booths with the largest crowd, “Insects and You.” With bugs both in hand and on display, faculty and graduate students of UCR’s entomology department were more than willing to explain the origins and behavior of their insects. They kept things interesting by inviting members of the audience to handle some of the bugs, but one of the specimens stole the stage: a Chilean rose tarantula, who was described as “friendly” by its handler. Curious onlookers were able to pet the giant arachnid, but I was happy to appreciate its beauty from a distance.
UCR’s Agricultural Operations also made an appearance with their display, “Tasting of Date Fruits from Around the World.” Grown in Thermal, California over 15 acres of land, attendees were able to sample different varieties of dates. Members of the department were happy to chat with their audience about the fruits and the date palm which, as the display’s staff explained, is said to thrive with its “feet in water and head in the sun” because it needs plenty of ground water to drink, but high heat and arid weather to produce fruit. They also armed members of the audience with a complimentary bag of free Medjool dates, which tasted sweet, fresh and a little bit like fudge.
As I chowed down on free dates, I made my way over to Phood on Main. The restaurant hosted “Phun with Phood,” a modern cooking demonstration led by Chef Marla, a 2012 Inland Empire Best Chef. Of all the events, Chef Marla’s demonstration was definitely the most memorable; she spoke loudly, but with great excitement, and she used plenty of metaphors to explain some of the more scientific concepts of modern cooking in layman’s terms. With an emphasis on molecular gastronomy, Chef Marla led her audience through spherification, the process of chemically shaping liquid into spheres using sodium alginate, calcium chloride or calcium carbonate.
I kept my focus on the space between the Mission Inn and the ArtsBlock, but the event stretched throughout Downtown Riverside and populated plenty of iconic venues like the Mission Inn and the Riverside Art Museum. Despite the growing late hour, crowds continued to mill around downtown as professors, artists, and other accomplished speakers led panels, demonstrations, and displays on topics ranging from spider silk to video game art. Overall, the Long Night of Arts and Innovation felt like an informative and entertaining success. For students who missed out on the excitement, downtown Riverside hosts an Arts Walk the first Thursday of each month from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
I arrived in downtown Riverside later in the evening expecting to see a multitude of people excited for The Long Night of Arts & Innovation. The crowds seemed to be dwindling by 9:30 p.m., but there were still plenty of booths open and running.
I made my way to The Mission Inn Music Room to see a performance of “Into The Woods” by Performance Riverside, but was incredibly disappointed as the volunteer told me the performance was moved to a different location earlier on in the evening. I hadn’t received any notice of the change and could only sympathize with a few other people near me also looking forward to it. Unfortunately, this seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the night for the arts aspect of the event.
I then reviewed the schedule I printed from the event’s website and planned to see Juan Felipe, UCR’s poet laureate, read some of his poetry at The Culver Center Atrium at 10:30. To kill time, I grabbed a coffee from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which was thankfully open late for the event, and walked around to see what else was open. A large line wrapped around the block on Main for a haunted house put on by the Riverside Arts Council, and screams rose above the house’s black curtain walls. Another crowd formed around magician Eric Muelebach, from Riverside City College, as he performed and revealed some mind-bending magic tricks.
At 10:25, I headed to The Culver Center Atrium and sat down to wait for Juan Felipe’s reading. However, a volunteer approached me and said that he would not be performing tonight as he hadn’t shown up to any of his other time slots earlier on in the night. Disappointed once again, I left the Culver Center and continued to wander, looking for anything else that might be open.
At the Fox Theater, I stumbled upon a lecture by Dr. Matthew Rickard of California Baptist University called, “Hidden Worlds: High Speed Imaging of Exciting Physical Phenomena In Engineering.” Though I had planned to focus on the arts centered events, I was fascinated by the moments Dr. Rickard was able to capture on film such as an exploding light bulb, a popping water balloon and air displaced by water. At the end of his lecture, he held out a slinky and dropped it. At first, it looked as if it merely fell to the ground, nothing special, but in seeing it played back through the high speed camera, I saw that the bottom of the slinky remained suspended in air for a few moments waiting for the top to fall first. Dr. Rickard finished his presentation with questions and a request for other movements to capture on camera.
In reviewing the evening, I have to say I was disappointed in not being able to see everything I had planned on seeing. My advice to people planning to attend future Long Nights of Art & Innovation? Don’t plan on seeing any one event. Plan on wandering and stumbling on fascinating booths and lectures.