Open studio tours are a good way to experience art and artists. Every first Friday evening of each month you can take a free self-guided tour of downtown Phoenix galleries, studios and art spaces. It's called First Friday. First Friday is organized by Artlink, a nonprofit organization "...dedicated to bringing together artists, the public, and businesses for a greater understanding, appreciation, and promotion of the arts and the development of a strong and vital downtown Phoenix arts community."
How did the Phoenix First Friday events get started?Here's a bit of history. During the latter part of the 1980s there was tremendous interest in downtown arts and entertainment which propelled, among other initiatives, the 1988 Bond election. The election made possible the new central library, the Arizona Science Center, and the Phoenix Museum of History. This new infusion of energy led to the Jackson Street Studios, an arrangement to accommodate artists displaced by the US Airways Center, which was called the America West Arena at the time. Artlink was founded with this energy, and some of the art spaces existing during that time, such as Alwun House, live on today.
The annual Art Detour, originally designed as simply an open studios tour, was founded in the spring of 1988, and has attracted hundreds of artists and thousands of art lovers downtown every year. The galleries and alternative art spaces open year-round were joined by music venues, cafes and individual artist studios and, during the 1990s, Artlink decided to organize this into the First Friday event.
How many art spaces are there?First Friday has grown - during the 1998 Season there were 13 spaces open each Friday. There are now more than 70 participants -- at times closer to 100 -- in the First Friday art walk. Spaces are situated from Indian School Road to Buchanan Street, from 12th Street to 17th Avenue - impossible to walk in one night. A free Shuttle-Link service allows Phoenix First Friday visitors to reach most of the spaces.
I used to post a link to an old map of First Friday routes and galleries, but after a few years it became too outdated to include here. If you aren't already familiar with First Friday's routes, just stop at Phoenix Art Museum first and pick up a current map. There's usually an ArtLink volunteer on hand who can answer your questions. Before you head out on Friday evening, check my tips on the next page.
What else is there to do?Two of my favorite downtown venues in Downtown Phoenix invite guests to visit for free on many (but not all) First Friday evenings, although typically, on other days, an admission fee is charged.
1. The younger set can get in on some playtime overload at the Childrens Museum of Phoenix. Target Free First Friday Nights allows this popular attraction to be open to the public, free of charge, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on February 1, March 1, May 3, June 7, July 5, August 2, September 6, October 4, December 6 in 2013.
2. Normally thought of as being for kids, adults might be surprised at how much fun they can have (and what they can learn) at the Arizona Science Center. On many First Friday evenings the attraction opens its doors, free of charge from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., to people who are at least 18 years old for Adults Night Out. Sit in on a different special lecture each month and explore the entire museum (there is a charge for the planetarium, IMAX and specially ticketed exhibits). They have a DJ, too!
Should I dress up?The downtown Phoenix First Friday event is not about glitz or champagne or cocktail parties - it is about the inner-city urban experience. Artists living and working downtown exhibit downtown. Thousands of people enjoy what is offered during each First Friday event, and several exhibitions sell half of their offerings during these openings.
When is it?The First Friday art walk in downtown Phoenix is held on the first Friday of every month, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information about First Friday, contact Artlink at 602-256-7539.
What does it cost?Nothing. First Friday is free.
Do you have photos?Enjoy these photos of First Friday. You can also watch a short video about First Friday.
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