Downtown: Everything’s Waiting For You

Funky and eclectic galleries host art showings on First Friday.
Photo by Linda Evans

Nearly a month after an early morning explosion at a NV Energy substation in Downtown Las Vegas forced many businesses in the Arts District area, including galleries, to close their doors, I was curious to see how this unfortunate incident has affected the monthly arts awareness event known as First Friday.

First Friday is part street fair and part art studio open house held on the first Friday of every month in the Downtown area around Charleston and Main Street. Operated by Whirlygig Inc. and supported by vendors, studios and donations from art philanthropists, the monthly event brings out all kinds of artists in an outdoor festival area, along with several food vendors, live bands on a stage located at Colorado and Casino Center and street performers scattered throughout the several square block area, hoping to attract buyers to the city streets in the shadow of the Stratosphere.

One reason I decided to go is that one of the galleries unharmed by the July 11th blast was holding a fund raising event for another that was: Place Gallery was severely damaged and has relocated, for the time being at least, at ALIOS Gallery, located on Main Street, where they donated space for Art Renegades’ presentation of LVSK8 IV – The Skatedeck Art Show their recent showing LV Sk8 Show. Think skateboards without wheels. ALIOS Gallery and the Las Vegas Paranormal Society also held a fundraiser for “The Artists of Place Gallery” with a raffle for gift certificates, a bake sale, gift baskets, and donated art.

Street performers wow the First Friday attendees.
Photo by Linda Evans

The surrounding art galleries and stores that were not damaged from the S. Main Street substation explosion were also open and peddling their wares, hoping for a sale. After I bought some cookies I went next door to Retro Vegas (1211 S Main Street) which is an eclectic sort of vintage store that holds a lot of mid-century modern type of furniture and accessories rich in texture, color and shape. Imagine a store filled with the nick knacks your grandma (or in my case my mom) had accessorizing the plastic-covered “good” furniture of her living room. What a great store.

The highlight of my First Friday experience was at The Box Office Gallery (1129 S. Casino Center Blvd.) where photographer Cameron Grant was showing new HDR limited edition fine art images printed on aluminum sheeting. I thought I had died and gone to photo heaven! These are a “must see” for sure and truly inspiring for me as an artist and photographer. Cameron will be showing again in November at this gallery so be sure to check it out yourself.

Two skatedecks on display and for sale at ALIOS Gallery.
Top: 'Blast From The Past' by Ryan Weber
Bottom: 'SK8 Troops' by Alicia Bryan.
Photo by Linda Evans

Once the sun started to set I ventured and remained outside and I have to say that the attendees are almost as colorful as the art itself. I briefly listened to a band (according to the schedule it was The Raft), bought a little pin with a picture of an old camera on it from a TV tray filled with little pins by an artist named Melissa, eyed some custom-made guitar chairs by an artist named Al and window shopped the various street merchants hawking their wares. Well not really window shopping cuz there were no windows but, you get the picture.

Here’s a helpful hint for when you go, the El Cortez Hotel & Casino sponsors an Express Trolley that takes you from at the Cortez Garden Gateway on East Fremont Street to The Funk House Trolley Stop from 6:00 p.m.(starting at the El Cortez) until 10:00 p.m. with the last First Friday stop at approximately 9:30 p.m. Parking is free at the El Cortez for patrons so drop a couple bucks in a penny machine and you avoid the First Friday traffic and parking issues.

Overall I love First Friday and hope that it continues to thrive. If you want to help support the local Las Vegas art scene then go buy a Best Friend of First Friday card for just $25 per year. (go to this link for more info). By the time I got back to my car I was hot and tired but my creative battery had been recharged and the Diva is seriously thinking about maybe having her own showing of her artwork in one of those eclectic and exciting studios someday soon.