First Friday Success

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Last weekend people began following signs on Main Street with the First Friday Design you see above.  This was a test evening to work out the logistics for a new kind of First Friday Art Walk on Main in Vincennes. All together ten businesses participated, and before the day was over three more wanted to join next month.

What do we mean participate?  At the very least, a business can display some art in their business window visible to the public on the First Friday of the month. Interested businesses need to let us know, though, so we can give them a special First Friday sign that only participants may have.  If needed, the downtown galleries can provide the art work. During the August First Friday some businesses did that and also stayed open until 8 pm, when the galleries were showing as well.  Four businesses created space to exhibit art inside their stores.  The Humane Society reported the most success: They said they were “packed” with visitors that evening. Two businesses on the 300 block near 2nd street reported no visitors, though they remained open. This was especially disappointing to them after working Side Walk Sales for two straight days before that evening.

There were several reasons that could account for this:

  • Many people used the pleasant weather to participate in activities throughout the day, such as the Sidewalk Sales and preparing for the Watermelon Festival, or worked all day at home in their yard.
  • The annual Red Skelton Celebration was a direct competing activity
  • Many people were out of town on vacation,
  • University faculty were getting ready for their classes.
  • Advertising was limited because this was all organized during one week and considered a test to see how the logistics could work.
  • Some businesses were reluctant about joining that activity until they saw how others did.
  • These business were not located between the three galleries.

So how can we change this for September 5th, which is that month’s First Friday and the beginning of Art Gallery Season in most towns.   For starters, the galleries will continue to promote the participating businesses. Our philosophy is that if we creatively help them, we all will benefit. We have two main goals:  1)  Get more businesses to participate. 2) Creatively move people to all the participating entities, as well as the galleries.  Another gallery will be joining us in September.  Tom Bartholomew will be showing his art photography that he rarely exhibits.  Most people know him for photographing weddings.  On First Fridays, we have the opportunity to see another side of Tom. It would be nice to support his debut with a purchase of one of his art prints! That should attract people through the one hundred block toward first street, but we have to devise ways to ensure traffic for Tom and any participating businesses down that end of Main.  (Notice that I am advertising for another gallery at the other end of downtown Main from Art Space Vincennes Vincennes!)

So what are ways to lure people to move the length of Main Street?  We can create artful attractions using actors in costume, a live music piece that runs the length of Main and/or visually exciting attraction such as creative projections on the buildings between 1st and 6th Streets.

Many people, however, have difficulty walking.  How about a system of golf carts going up and down Main Street stopping at the open venues allowing people to get on and off at each stop, and pausing briefly at the venues that are closed, but displaying art in their windows?  I can see tractors pulling trailers in October and horse and buggies in November and December.  If anybody can help with these ideas, please call me at 812-887-6145 or if you are reading this on my blog on my website or Facebook, post a comment telling me your idea.  Can we find five people willing to let us use, or willing to drive, their golf carts up and down Main between 5 and 8 pm on any First Friday?  Not that we can do all this yet, but these are ideas we can work toward. What do you say?

What I like about all this is that it is directed toward the businesses involved, not away from the businesses. It offers an unusual treat for the visitor too, as there will be some beautiful art displayed.  It will make the downtown businesses intimately familiar in a new way and more personal.  Post me your ideas, call me up with your suggestions.  We’re getting serious with this. Look out world! Vincennes is about to have some night life!  Aw, okay, you can still get to bed by nine!




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