Ultra Vires


Embrace Toronto: Drinking with Dinosaurs at the ROM’s “Friday Night Live”

Samuel Levy (1L)

The ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) may be minutes away from campus, but in my four years at Victoria College it never struck me as a place to visit after the school day. Would my younger self believe that the ROM might become the place to party on a Friday night?

On October 10th, the ROM launched the fourth season of its popular ‘Friday Night Live’ – or #FNL – party series. For eight Fridays in a row, in the Spring and the Fall, the ROM opens its doors and galleries to the public from 7PM-midnight. A crowd of students and young professionals fills the historic space, and is treated to a classy night of food, music, bars and great company. I went on October 17th and, alongside students in sweatpants, young Bay Street lawyers and disoriented Parisian tourists (yes, these were the people next to our group in line), I was excited to see what this was all about.

Using our ROM Bucks, purchased ahead of time to avoid the long line, we enjoyed $6 drinks from the many bars scattered throughout the museum. With our remaining funds we sampled creations from local food companies: a pulled pork roti from the Me.n.u food truck booth and Yukon Gold Potato fries from JK Frites. We enjoyed our spoils both on the busy dancefloor, and later in one of the quieter, candle-lit seating areas. And did I mention that this all happened next to dinosaurs?

#FNL goes beyond the typical club experience by leveraging the content of one of North America’s largest museums. The ROM’s many exhibits and galleries are on full display, blending seamlessly with the swanky scene. Each night has a theme, related to the ROM’s other programming; last week was ‘Africa Alive,’ inspired by the ROM’s ‘Of Africa’ programming initiative. The night’s features included DJs spinning a mix of House and Yoruba music, a catwalk featuring Bakuba cloth – made from the raffia palm tree – a live drumming circle and dinosaur fossils dating back an unfathomable 190 million years. We also made sure to check out the mainstays, such as the Biodiversity Gallery, dinosaur fossils and (of course) the Bat Cave.

There was something for everyone.

Connie MacDonald, the ROM’s Assistant VP of Programs and Events, and director of #FNL, remarks that #FNL has allowed the ROM to reconnect with a younger demographic (19-34), a group that is traditionally disengaged from the museum community:

“Previously we did things for families, school groups and seniors, but not for young adults. [#FNL] is designed to speak to a group of people that we haven’t focused on in the past, allowing them to connect to the museum in a way that’s meaningful to them.”

She notes that with the modernization of the ROM building (vis-à-vis the ‘ROM Crystal’ extension) and the rapid development of the Bloor-Yorkville area, now is the perfect time to reintroduce the ROM to younger Torontonians.

MacDonald observes that #FNL is part of a larger trend of museums and galleries around the world reaching out to students and young professionals. The list includes the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as the Australian Museum in Sydney, where current ROM Director Janet Carding hails from. In Toronto, another recent initiative is ‘First Thursdays’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which combines its world-class installations with live performances for a truly unique outing. All of these, MacDonald notes, illustrate a push from museums and large-scale institutional venues to become “meaningful and relevant” to young people again.

Whether you plan to burn a couple of hours before heading downtown, or spend the whole night, #FNL doesn’t disappoint. Looking at incredible collections and artifacts – drink in hand – in this eclectic, after-hours setting, you can’t help but be excited to be back at the ROM; you’ll probably wonder what took you so long.

#FNL runs until November 28. To find out more and buy tickets go to http://www.rom.on.ca/en/activities-programs/rom-friday-night-live. The ROM is also free for students on Tuesdays.

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