First Friday Art Walks are the perfect way to explore galleries, celebrate creativity and support local artists. Here’s an inside view.
Looking for an opportunity to explore the local art scene? First Friday is the perfect start to each month: a night of art shows, performances and social gatherings. “The First Friday is one of those nationally-recognized days of art-going,” says Brett Andrus, painter and owner of S.P.Q.R. Art Space. And there’s a unique energy that comes with every observance: “People milling around, looking at shows; it’s fun,” Andrus says.
In the Pikes Peak region, First Friday events happen in three separate arts districts, Old Colorado City, Downtown and Manitou Springs. From April through Octo- ber, you can catch a free First Friday Shuttle between them. For my own Friday routine, I typically begin at the galleries in Old Colorado City, then go downtown to see a friend’s new show at the Kreuser Gallery or GOCA 121. In the Arts Alley, parallel to Tejon Street between Bijou Street and Kiowa Street, the galleries are rocking until midnight for their show openings, so my night ends there, where music and lively conversation radiate from the warm interiors of S.P.Q.R.Art Space andThe Modbo.
First Friday arts celebrations take place in cities across the country. Sharon Wolff of the Hunter-Wolff Gallery founded First Friday ArtWalk in Old Colorado City in 2005. Now in its 16th year, the ArtWalk draws hundreds of people to the Westside each month.
In the downtown district, the festivities evolved out of Friday openings at the Rubbish Gallery and later The Modbo and S.P.Q.R.Today, 20 to 30 downtown galleries participate, and the Downtown Partnership and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region provide supportive programming and services. Thousands of people turn out each month, according to Claire Swinford, urban engagement manager of the Downtown Partnership. “It’s a unique cultural phenomenon that is paying off in really exciting ways,” she says.
“First Fridays are a chance for the community to celebrate and show their appreciation through their dollars for local artists,” Andrus says. S.P.Q.R., Hunter-Wolff and other galleries regularly feature live painting, drawing and music.
“These events are essential because they are my chance as the artist to interact with the customer,” says sculptor and goldsmith Maria Battista. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. I get a chance to explain that.”
Andrus agrees, “It’s important to demystify the art-making process to the viewer, allowing them to see how decisions are made and to see how people are working.”
Wolff invites visitors to participate in the discovery of original art and to add some art to their lives.“We want people to make a connection with art and give these pieces permanent homes,” she says.
Find First Friday Art Walks
First Friday Downtown
Join an official walking tour or gallery hop on your own. Year-round.
Old Colorado City ArtWalk
Visit the high concentration of galleries in three square blocks. April through December.
Tour the many galleries in the funky little foothills town.
Virtual First Fridays
First Friday events have had to adapt during the pandemic. Many galleries have offered virtual or hybrid events and exhibitions. Find the latest schedule at peakradar.com.