On July 22, as the trolleys circle around downtown Manchester, they will be doing more than simply bringing patrons to the city’s galleries. They will have brought the arts community together.
Open Doors Trolley Night has been operating since 2002, when it began as a project by the NH Art Institute. After a few years, the Majestic Theatre stepped up and became its fiscal agent, according to Robert Dionne, artistic director. This year on three separate Thursdays, two trolleys will pick up and drop off passengers between 5 and 8 p.m. at about eight downtown galleries. The next trolley night is Thursday, July 22. Dionne said people don’t need to physically ride the trolleys to participate and can instead walk or drive to the galleries, which offer free admission.
“The trolley night has helped,” said Lee Forgosh of Art 3 Gallery, which has participated in the event since its inception. “It has brought people to the gallery that might not otherwise have found us. It is connecting a lot of people who are interested in the arts but also bringing out a lot of new faces.”
And therein lies the beauty of the trolley nights. Though they happen only three times a year, planning the events forces those behind the scenes together. Every venue that participates must have a person on the Open Doors committee, according to Christine King, owner of the Framers Market. King said this committee meets at least six times a year to strategize.
“When we first took over, 99 percent of the work was being done by the Majestic,” Dionne said. “Now it is run by the committee and we just oversee it. Even if no one showed up it would be a success because of the collaboration that goes on. But of course we want a lot of people to come out.”
Forgosh said such communication has connected the arts and culture in the city and created a sort of fraternity.
“I think we’re beginning to realize we’re all here for each other,” Forgosh said.
Through the advertisement for the trolley night on places like Facebook, the participating venues get more exposure. And because there is always the chance of new visitors, the venues want to have something that draws a crowd, according to King. This is why many of the galleries involved open new exhibits on trolley nights and have artist receptions.
“It really forces us to have more shows,” Forgosh said.
This process did not happen overnight, and the trolley nights have greatly improved over the years.
“This is the third year we’ve participated in it,” King said. “Every year it has gotten better and every trolley night during the year gets better too.”
This is the first time a trolley night will be held in the middle of the summer. Dionne hoped great weather would bring people out. There will also be a restaurant raffle, which means when visiting a free venue people can sign up to win gift certificates at Manchester restaurants. This year’s final trolley night will be held Thursday, Oct. 21.