Stopping by the ROM on a Friday evening

by Jini Stolk

At 7 pm last Friday I was passing by the ROM and was intrigued to see a large line-up at the doors. Interesting. But on my way back home at 9 pm, I was really intrigued to see an even larger line-up, all Gen-Y’s it seemed, dressed for a night on the town, eagerly milling about and taking photos and selfies as is their wont. Of course I stopped to ask what was happening, and a young woman quickly answered “ROM Friday.” Was it just me being paranoid or was there a hint of eye-rolling going on?

Anyway, I didn’t know! ROM Fridays, known officially as ROM Friday Night Live, are a very big deal, with a full season of events attracting crowds of hundreds – no, thousands, I just checked their website – and featuring “eclectic eats, drinks, DJs, dancing, live music and unexpected experiences.” Earlybird (online) tickets sell out but tickets are available at the door starting at 7 pm, hence the crowd at the “NEED’EM” line (love that name) near the main entrance. This will be going on every Friday between October 10 to November 28, 7-12 pm, and no doubt beyond.

I would have loved to stop and talk with the crowd about what brought them there and what they thought of their evening – but I had promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep(ed)… However, an age-appropriate colleague has volunteered to check out the next event, so I may be back to you with exciting updates from the dance floor.

It seems clear that ROM Fridays are a wonderful audience development idea that will keep on giving. Not only do they open a major public space to the public in a very appealing way, but attenders are also invited into the exhibitions where they can become familiar with the ROM beyond the parties. Once they have children I bet they’ll be taking them to the museum on the odd Saturday afternoon – growing entire new generations of gallery-goers.

By the way, on that fateful Friday evening I was on my way to another great audience engagement and cultural partnership event, Soundstreams’ Salon 21 at the Gardiner Museum. I was interested in seeing the Clare Twomey installation riffing on the Gardiner’s commedia dell’arte collection, and I also had the pleasure of learning everything I ever wanted to know about the accordion from little known accordion genius Michael Bridge. His informal performance, discussion and Q & A proved once and for all that the accordion is cool, capable in its digital form of playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture complete with cannons, as well as much-loved repertoire from Guns ‘n’ Roses.

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