Friday, 25 July 2014 14:13

Linking community through art and networking

Written by  Kerri VanderHoff
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Linking community through art and networking Photo courtesy of Sandi Gunnett & Wojtek Dabrowski

First Fridays
Ongoing each month
Avenue for the Arts
Division between Fulton and Wealthy, Grand Rapids
Aug. 1, 6-9 p.m.
avenueforthearts.com

LINC Gallery
1167 Madison Ave. SE, Grand Rapids
Aug. 1, 5:30-10 p.m.
lincrev.org, (616) 451-9140

You may have noticed, and perhaps participated in, First Friday events held in cities across the country: Albany, Anchorage, Bellingham, Chicago, Denver, Kalamazoo, Scranton, Phoenix, Tallahassee and many more. On the first Friday of each month, galleries and artists’ studios open their doors and encourage the public to explore the diverse offerings. Many are clustered within walking distance of each other. Sometimes there’s a trolley making the hop between arts areas and downtown hotels.

There’s strength in numbers with the concept, in two ways. First, banding together many smaller gallery and studio spaces to produce one event creates a larger social and retail opportunity, as well as a full evening out for tourists and locals. Second, with studios often located in outlying warehouse districts or historic-yet-economically emerging areas of a city, creating pedestrian traffic reassures visitors and encourages them to explore further.

You might have also noticed a version of First Fridays in several more cities across North America and seven countries worldwide including Austin, Birmingham, Boston, Detroit, Hong Kong, Jackson, London, Memphis, New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, Normandy and others that have a different focus. These events place the emphasis on networking and business opportunities for African-American professionals. First Fridays United is a company founded to organize the existing chapters into one group to share information, resources, community investment and sponsors.

In Grand Rapids, drawing on innovation and collaboration, there’s a melding of the two, as different individuals and organizations work together to build a version of First Fridays that best reflects this city. Still in the fledgling stages in its interconnectedness, and seeking additional partnerships and underwriting opportunities to help it grow, there are a few events currently in place. They show promise for building a stronger presence in the international circle of First Friday events. It’s a great marketing tactic, economic driver, and a value to the community.

Stop by Avenue for the Arts along Division between Fulton and Wealthy 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of the month (this month falls on Aug. 1) to find artwork by local artists, handmade goods, entertainment and food and drink specials. Ten local shops, restaurants and galleries offer unique items and services, providing a fun immersion in the arts culture along this downtown avenue.

A little further south, at Madison and Hall in the Southeast Corridor neighborhood, the LINC Gallery provides a First Friday experience it describes as a “monthly groove for the professional.” On the first Friday of each month, the gallery opens from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and offers art, drinks, food, jazz and spoken word in an environment that encourages networking among residents of the neighborhood and beyond.

Hugo Claudin, full time curator of the LINC gallery, part of the LINC Community Revitalization organization, is working with leaders at Avenue for the Arts and other gallery owners to help interconnect the First Friday events throughout the city.

We wanted to modernize the idea of a gallery space,” Claudin said. “Create experiences in real time; with relevance and accessibility to the community it serves.”

 

OTHER ART EVENTS

Double Take: Artists Respond to the Collection
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Aug. 23-Jan. 4, 2015
kiarts.org, (269) 349-7775

Artists have long been inspired by the work of other artists. Thirty artists in the Kalamazoo area have each selected a work from the KIA's collection that inspires them. Responding to the original artists' unique perspectives on color, form, meaning and content, these local artists created works in response. Artists' statements will illuminate the visual connections between the works.

 

Ox-Bow’s Open Studios
Ox-Bow School of the Arts
Aug. 1 & 15, 7:30-10 p.m.
3435 Rupprecht Way, Saugatuck
ox-bow.org, (269) 857-5811

Students, fellows and Professional Artists in Residence mount an exhibit of their work that comes from a variety of media including painting, drawing, ceramics, metals, papermaking, printmaking and glass. Open Studios also feature an artistic demonstration and past demos have included papermaking in the lagoon, glassblowing and casting, and collaborative demonstrations between studios like Print and Metals or Glass and Metals.

 

Art in the Park
Centennial Park, Holland
Aug. 2, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
hollandfriendsofart.com, (616) 396-3278

The annual fine arts and crafts fair, Art in the Park is the first Saturday of August in Holland. The event draws one of the largest influx of visitors to the city on a single day, second only to Tulip Time. About 300 fine artists and artisans from eight states will be on hand to display and sell their work. Approximately 15,000 art enthusiasts and shoppers will attend the event.

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