The evening I walked into the new Implact Hub Oakland for its first Late Nite Art event ultimately became a night of many firsts. For starters, I had actually never heard of, nor celebrated, the Pagan holiday, Beltane, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never had Mamak Malaysian food. Rather than burdening myself with preliminary research and preconceived notions, I allowed myself to enter the Hub with an open mind, a free spirit, and a painfully empty stomach.

All photos by Rossi Dimitrova Photography

All photos by Rossi Dimitrova Photography.

The Hub space proved to be well suited for such a gathering. The open layout of the space, sprinkled with lounges and comfy chairs readily lends itself to the open flow of ideas. It’s easy to see why the Hub counts itself as a nurturing ground for innovators. Our conductor for the evening, Adam Rosendahl, had set up mood music for the background and greeted his guests, most of whom were noticeably warm from wine sipping and crowded around the kitchen island where Azalina’s Malaysian Catering was serving roasted corn fritters and vegetable dumpling hors d’oeuvres.

Just as my boyfriend and I made our way to a comfortable seat by each other towards the end of one table, Adam asked us abruptly to all rise and reseat ourselves next to a guest we had yet to meet — in other words, a stranger! Date night was beginning to seem more like a speed dating event. For a brief moment, everyone displayed their best “deer-in-headlights” impressions as they wondered what they had gotten themselves into. Presently, I settled into my new seat and introduced myself to my new neighbors: a non-profit organizer, a spiritual guide, and a new Oakland transplant. While I could’ve chatted for at least another hour with my new friends, I was forced to save it for later as Adam took to the stage and formally introduced himself.

You’ve probably already heard of Late Nite Art and how it came to fruition. Adam was a young art teacher in a rough school, and decided to engage his students in a more collegial setting by bringing in contemporary pop music and directing collaborative art projects rather than the often-judgmental and self-deprecating solo pieces. This medium of engagement proved to be such a great model that he decided to add some booze to the mix and let the creativity of the 21+ crowd take to the butcher paper.

All photos by Rossi Dimitrova Photography

All photos by Rossi Dimitrova Photography.

Adam confirmed that each evening of Late Nite Art takes on its own character, and he allows for a fair amount of free flow. This unique and organic method of event planning was a welcome interruption from the daily grind. Adam passed the mic to the soulful Ashara Ekundayo, Chief Creative Officer at Impact Hub Oakland, introduced the Beltane holiday to be a celebration of life, and proceeded to perform a few representational rituals to honor all that gives life. We raised our glasses to our hearts and were serenaded by her energy, along with thought-provoking storytelling by local poet Mark Gonzalez.

The evening progressed with a little push and pull from Adam, and all the free-flowing creativity that happens when you toss inhibition out the window and take to the tables with art utensils most of us probably haven’t touched since our grade school days.

The seating reassignment turned out to be a crucial theme to the evening, but we all warmed up to the idea with Adam’s prompting and encouragement. We told secrets to strangers and met friends of friends. We drew ridiculousness, spilled a little (or a lot) of wine, and wrote some pretty steamy poetry in honor of giving life.

Azalina’s three-course meal of a vibrant and fresh, all-diets-friendly cucumber pineapple cumin salad, braised chicken, kabocha and lentil, coconut rice, and sticky rice in banana leaves, was all eclectic yet divinely comforting Asian food. Our event photographer, Rossi Dimitrova, was a great ice breaker and engaging participant. Even the shy solo attendees weren’t so reluctant to have their smiles captured.

Date night became a shared experience, but not in the traditional sense. My boyfriend and I laughed all the way home about all the silliness that ensued and the characters we met. Now in its third year, Late Nite Art has truly become a staple Oakland experience.

Poet Mark Gonzalez, all photos by Rossi Dimitrova Photography.

Poet Mark Gonzalez. All photos by Rossi Dimitrova Photography.

Not surprisingly, Adam has hosted this event for many organizations and companies as a team-building exercise and creativity inducer. Their next event will be hosted at another Bay Area mainstay, the California Academy of Sciences, where NightLife meets Late Nite Art on June 12. Visit the event page here and buy NightLife tickets here.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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