October’s First Friday Festivities: What’s New?

by Jonathan Hernandez Morales

Phoenix’s October First Friday is on Oct. 5, with live music, art viewings, food trucks, and many other activities taking place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Each first Friday of every month, around 70 vendors, galleries, and restaurants open their doors to the hordes of pedestrians that crowd Roosevelt Row for Artlink Phoenix’s free event, one of the biggest self-guided art walks in the country.

Quickly approaching, the monthly art crawl is expected to draw more than 20,000 people to the downtown area’s historic Roosevelt Row Arts District. According to organizers, the event is perpetually growing and evolving, ever so stoic, with each month exposing the community to new artists and activities, such as the new exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum.

The Phoenix Art Museum website tells of the new exhibit and how it showcases “never-before-seen artifacts from the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan,” a “traveling exhibition of recently excavated murals and other objects from the UNESCO World Heritage site…, on view for the last time in the United States.”

Sign of where each event at First Friday is located. Picture by Jonathan Hernandez Morales

Per the Phoenix Art Museum website, the “special-engagement exhibition is offered to the general public for $5 during voluntary-donation, pay-what-you-wish hours from 3 to 9 p.m. each Wednesday, from 6 to 10 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, and from noon to 5 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month.” Glendale Community College students also receive free admission every Wednesday, along with free entry to the Teotihuacan exhibit.

First introduced in 1994 by Artlink Phoenix, First Friday was a precedent to the impending, much-needed renovations in the struggling Roosevelt Row area. In the early 2000’s, Greg Esser took over, establishing Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that helps repair and revitalize antique spaces, along with the local arts economy. Esser is a local artist and philanthropist, owner of eye lounge, an artist-run contemporary art space and shop in downtown Phoenix.

“[It] began back in the early 2000’s in collaboration with many artists and art entities as an opportunity to connect artists and local residents together…, result(ing) in cultivating new, local, arts businesses within the Roosevelt Row Arts District. Prior to the growth and development we are experiencing today, there was a ripe opportunity to activate vacant spaces with creative enterprises. Many vacant buildings and dirt lots were repaired and renovated by artists to expand opportunities for the creatives to show and sell their artwork in public. Roosevelt Row CDC has assisted in these efforts through clean-up events run by volunteers and the A.R.T.S. market program,” said Nicole Underwood, Roosevelt Row’s Communications Representative.

First Friday and Roosevelt Row seem to have a profound effect on the local community, luring people from all walks of life. “I found out about it because of people I follow online who would always talk about it, making me want to go. It sort of became a place for people who knew each other online to meet up! I started going each month and if I didn’t go sometimes, I wouldn’t feel like myself, as crazy as that sounds,” said Ashley Esperanza Holmes, an ASU sophomore majoring in fashion.

“It is an event that continues to grow, in spite of changes in the community. People from all ages are drawn to the arts and the proof is in the attendance,” Underwood added. “First Friday is an event populated by artists and supported by people who invest in artists. So whether you are a college student or a long-time Phoenix resident, First Friday is the perfect opportunity to attend a free event and get to know people who are transforming the city. Find ways to get involved! We have a number of existing galleries in addition to our popup vendors. You can also volunteer through Roosevelt Row to help support the First Friday Event and other annual activities.”

Young or old, a long-time patron of the arts or a newcomer, make sure to visit the upcoming Phoenix Art Museum exhibits and First Fridays. The scheduled First Friday dates for the rest of the year are Oct. 5, Nov. 2, and Dec. 7 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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