First Friday Art Walk Steps Up
A much larger crowd came to experience September’s First Friday Art Walk in downtown Vincennes at the close of the first week of September. People relaxed by strolling from gallery to gallery looking along the way at the artwork displayed in the windows of many of the stores. The walk encompassed Main between Sixth and First and just off Main at First where Tom Bartholomew’s Wedding Photography Studio and Gallery, a new participant in the First Friday Art Walk, is located. Map guides indicating the route and venues were provided to help visitors.
The air-conditioned galleries offered relief from the late summer sultry air. In the cool interior of Art Space Vincennes about 100 guests enjoyed Jaye Schlesinger’s photo realist oil paintings of common, recognizable objects. Despite the banality of some of the subjects, people exclaimed about their beauty. This response was due not only to Schlesinger’s skill in rendering precise detail, but also because of the decisions she made in compositional relationships of color, texture, form and space. It is such decisions that make the objects seem “remarkable”, defying their ordinary presence in our daily lives, as the title of the show suggests. Many visitors also complimented Art Space on the layout of the show.
Some visitors ate the macaroni and cheese, or prosciutto rolled in swiss cheese, cheese crackers and wrapped candies, an unusual menu for an art opening, only to find that they were eating what was pictured in Schlesinger’s paintings in the next room. It was a playful surprise that drew many chuckles and opened conversations.
The Open Gallery reported a large crowd, though their current show, which contains memorabilia from the 1939 and 1940 futuristic World Fairs, has been up for a month. As usual their Irish band, nourished by some good whiskey, created an energetic and warm atmosphere. Michael and Rebecca Mullen were very pleased at the results of this new format for First Friday Art Walks.
The Northwest Territory Art Guild, which opened their annual juried member’s show, was also packed, according to a member who had attended and participated in that show. Prize winners were displayed with ribbons and works were sold. There were also guild members at the Gimbel Corner Park demonstrating watercolor painting and talking about Vincennes history and art to passers-by.
Tom Bartholomew displayed a collection of landscape photographs installed on aged and colorful doors in his gallery and his spacious and impressive studio space. He also had a satisfying number of visitors come through, though this was his first showing as part of the Art Walk scene. He is well known in the area for his unique and beautiful wedding photographs, but few have seen his personal creative work in landscape. This First Friday was an opportunity for him to introduce to the public another side of his artistic sensibility.
Posh Boutique organized a walking fashion show of clothing worn by models who individually designed and constructed the garments. The First Friday organizers appreciated Posh’s suggestion that fashion be considered an art form. In a kind of collaboration that will hopefully be continued, the models discretely helped encourage people on the street to go from venue to venue, and also made them aware of what their business, Posh, had to offer.
After the Art Walk OTP had a First Friday Performance of The Caffeine Fix, a reprise of a musical play written by Shar Mahoney and first performed twenty years ago.
Some Main Street businesses stayed open through the evening and found that effort worthwhile. Isaac Schmitt at Cafe Moonlight said he noticed a spike in the number of dinner guests that came that evening and also saw many passing to and from Art Space Vincennes across the street from his restaurant. He seemed clearly pleased at what First Friday had done for his business. People also found their way into River Walk Antiques, Posh Boutique and Bartholomew’s Gallery on 1st Street. Posh welcomed not only friends and family members of their models, but also Art Walkers.
And that was the point of the entire venture. Art can help many initiatives to revive the downtown. People are beginning to realize that. For Art Space Vincennes, a wonderful crowd of close to 100 guests included many who were there for the first time. The Northwest Territory Art Guild, Open Gallery and Tom Bartholomew Wedding Photography reported similar success.
Thanks must be given for the support of the Knox County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, the Knox County Chamber of Commerce, the Vincennes Central Business District and for the participation and efforts of all the stores and the the other galleries. The Northwest Territory Art Guild, especially Sara Frenz and John DeCoursey, lent a significant hand in building the participant base and supplying almost half of the twenty-five stores with art. WAOV devoted a 12 minute spot to First Fridays and Art Space paid for a day long blitz of ten and fifteen second ads. Beautification efforts by Doug Halter with flowers and trees along Main Street, which have provided a pleasant atmosphere for downtown walkers every day, added to the charm of the evening.
Downtown is perking up and it is on its way to becoming a destination. Working together means we can share the costs of advertising and draw more people. We can plan and coordinate efforts for greater impact over a period of time. These efforts can lead eventually to a tristate exposure that will attract interested people from beyond Knox County. We need to be sure we can offer everything these visitors will need when they do come. Guess what? They are already stopping at the art galleries. Readers, I would like to know what you think. You must have good ideas. I would like to hear about them. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.