Save Sleepless Night: What It'll Take to Bring the Arts Fest Back Next Year

Project Bandaloop dancers swung from the side of the New World Center at Sleepless Night 2011.
Project Bandaloop dancers swung from the side of the New World Center at Sleepless Night 2011.
Jacob Katel

Bad news for artsy insomniacs: Sleepless Night Miami Beach, the all-night arts bacchanal that's taken place concurrently with similar celebrations in cities around the world, has been called off for this year. And there's a chance that the 2011 edition could be the city's last. The city of Miami Beach is considering canceling Sleepless Night for good.

For Miami, a town that's striving to compete with cultural capitals like New York and Los Angeles, the news is a particularly hard-hitting blow. Aside from Art Basel, Sleepless Night is one of Miami's biggest and most immersive arts experiences; last year boasted 150 events at over 80 venues.

Not surprisingly, the problem has to do with funding. The city-wide event can cost as much as $600,000 to produce, said Gary Farmer, cultural affairs program manager for the city of Miami Beach. But the problem isn't lack of public support, he says. It's lack of corporate sponsorship.

"We've been lucky to have the Knight Foundation, one of the biggest arts funders in the country," Farmer says, noting the $100,000 the charity offered to support the now-canceled 2012 festivities. "We're lucky that people do recognize the value of the arts here. I don't want to downplay that at all."

Upcoming Events

But with such a high price tag, Sleepless Night can't depend on public support alone, Farmer says. In most cities that host Sleepless Night, government and its related industries fund the festivities. For example, in Montreal, Farmer says, funds come from the electric company and the milk industry, which are government-supported. "We don't have that industry here," he points out.

So instead, each Miami Beach edition of Sleepless Night has depended largely on corporate sponsorship. "We need to find ... a commercial entity that sees [Sleepless Night] as a valuable marketing opportunity," he explains. In 2009, for example, Audi contributed $200,000 to Sleepless Night in advance of its expansive marketing plans for Art Basel. In 2011, funds were cobbled together from a variety of sponsors, including Bustelo, contributing $20,000, and Ford, contributing $15,000.

So what happened this year? A couple strokes of bad luck. The state of Florida, which gave $25,000 to Sleepless Night in 2011, canceled that funding for 2012. And the companies that the city has approached with sponsorship deals this year, including Humana and Blue Cross, have turned the offer down.

It doesn't help that there's no dedicated Sleepless Night fundraising team. "This is a labor of love," Farmer says. "A handful of people work on the event, in addition to our full-time jobs. We don't really have the time or the skills to go out after sponsorships in that aggressive way."

Without a specialized team of fundraisers, and the city considering discontinuing the event permanently, Sleepless Night might seem doomed. But we think an event that brings sex doll photography, yoga-themed video art, and building-scaling dancers to Miami is worth fighting for. The industries that serve Miami need a reminder that culture is important to their customers. So if you'd like to help bring Sleepless Night back to Miami Beach in 2013, we have a few suggestions:

Get Loud
Money talks, but you don't need it to make your voice heard. So spread the news that Sleepless Night is looking for sponsors. "All kinds of people come for the event. All ages, ethnicities, economic levels -- people come together, which is perhaps the greatest thing about Sleepless Night," Farmer says. That's a lot of valuable customers who sure would be grateful to the company that gives them a cool art event for free.

Actors' Playhouse raised over $150,000 with a charitable auction and gala in April. Why couldn't a fundraising event for Sleepless Night do the same?

Vote for Arts
That $25,000 in funding Florida cut? That happened because we elected someone who cut it. If you dig the arts, make sure your political candidate does, too.

#SaveSleeplessNight, y'all.

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