Gallery Night is a free event held several times a year in downtown Pensacola during which art galleries and other establishments open their doors on Friday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. for a variety of activities including art viewing, wine tasting and live music. The events are sponsored by the Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board (DIB). The Downtown Arts District Association (DADA), held the first Gallery Night in 1991 with eight participating galleries. The event has since grown to include over forty businesses and organizations along Palafox Street and in the Belmont-DeVilliers and Historic Seville neighborhoods. In 2008, DADA and the Arts Council of Northwest Florida expanded the number of annual Gallery Nights from three to five. DIB began sponsoring Gallery Nights in 2010.
In January 1991, Andy Witt (executive director of the Arts Council of Northwest Florida), Susan Schmidt (owner of Schmidt's Framing) and Kathy Breazeale (co-owner of Bayfront Gallery) met to discuss a downtown event for arts businesses and organizations. The gallery walk theme, successful in other cities, became the inspiration for the events. Galleries, shops, museums and other downtown organizations were invited to participate in the newly formed Downtown Arts District Association, as a member organization of the Arts Council. Each participating member business or organization paid to be a part of DADA, and paid for the expenses of hosting the events. E. W. Bullock Associates designed the logo for the new organization, which was used on posters, postcards and other promotional materials. In 2010, Clever Ogre designed the new logo.
It was decided that March, July and November would be the dates of the events, to coincide with spring break, July 4th and Blue Angels schedules, and the Friday before the week of Thanksgiving, to kick off the holiday season.
The plan included invitations to musical groups, theater groups, visual artists and students to create a night celebrating the arts in downtown Pensacola. Displays of artwork, working artists, musical performances or other entertainment, including poetry readings, or book signings were required to participate in Gallery Nights as DADA members. Those businesses that were not arts oriented, could participate by offering a venue for an artist, musician, author or performance artist.
Gallery Nights were a hit from the first event, with people using the map of participating DADA members to guide them from north of Garden Street to south of Main Street on Palafox, around Plaza Ferdinand, and over to Seville Square area, enjoying the visual art displays and musical entertainment. It was not long before trolleys were provided by DADA for the events to assist the crowds in getting around the entire circuit. Then, two trolley routes were needed to accomodate the growing list of participants, one the north/south Palafox route, and the second east/west route that tied together the participants located off Palafox Street.
The first gallery nights had the downtown area filled with balloons to indicate the location of DADA participants. The November event had candle filled luminarias to lead visitors up to the doors of DADA members for many years. Later, television and radio stations introduced live broadcasts during Gallery Nights to promote downtown Pensacola.
- March 19
- May 21 (Special Edition with Pensacola Wine Festival)
- July 9
- September 17
- November 19
- "Gallery Night lights up downtown Pensacola." Pensacola News Journal, November 19, 1999.