First Fridays Bring Life to Downtown Grand Rapids — Come Out!
February 2, 2018 by Sonja Merrild
This post is part of a collaborative effort to lift up the visibility of the role of arts in healthy communities in Northeast Minnesota. To see additional content, look for #30DaysofArt and #ArtsontheRange on Facebook and Twitter.
For years, a core group of artists and arts advocates in Grand Rapids knew that the local arts community was strong, but not very visible to the larger community. Key questions persisted: “How can we promote the arts? And how can we someday become an arts destination?”
A large part of the response became First Fridays, or what is officially the monthly “First Friday Art Walk” in downtown Grand Rapids. Every first Friday of the month, MacRostie Art Center continues its long-standing practice of opening a new art exhibit, but the Art Walk extends to art experiences in several downtown and area retail businesses, nonprofit organizations, cafés, and bars. The Walk often brings out hundreds of locals, who take in art experiences, including live music, paintings, sculpture, weaving, pottery, printing, artist talks, and the ever-more popular craft beer tastings at the Lake & Co. Shop.
Finally, historic Central School hosts Grand Rapids’ only artist residency space, where 3-5 working artists show their work, and are happy to engage in questions and conversations with curious visitors.
Local businesses pay a nominal fee to host an artist or art event at their location, and benefit from a revolving door of patrons who may not otherwise think to re-visit a business if it weren’t for the First Friday opportunity.
Communities all over Minnesota engage in similar events. If your community is looking to add vibrancy to its downtown and arts and culture scene, it’s a manageable and impactful way to bring back a sense of connectedness and community pride.
Consider paying a visit to Grand Rapids tonight between 4 and 7 p.m., taking in music / jazz at the VFW at 7 p.m., visiting downtown galleries and businesses, ascending the stairs of Old Central School to meet artists, and experience what happens when the community gathers in support of arts, culture, and business.
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