By Ben Burstein
VCU Capital News Service
With murals on buildings throughout the city and VCU constructing an arts center, it’s no secret that Richmond has a thriving arts scene. Once a month, that scene is on full display at Richmond’s First Fridays art walk.
First Fridays takes advantage of the city’s views and love for art to create a space where local galleries and artists can showcase their work. The art walk takes place on the first Friday of every month on Broad Street (and several side streets) between Laurel and Seventh streets from 5 to 9 p.m.
First Fridays is a year-round event, but it becomes a must-go activity especially during the summer months.
Brandi Corbin, a Richmond native living in Hampton, frequently makes the drive back to her hometown on the weekends that First Fridays occurs.
“It’s such a great environment to hang out in,” Corbin said. “There’s so much great talent to see – I love it.”
The art walk combines fun for families and visibility for local artists. Artists line the sidewalks with a range of work on display, from paintings and sculptures to clothes and jewelry. Galleries have their doors open to the sidewalks, allowing spectators easy access. Among the many venues beckoning passers-by are the Quirk, Ada and 1708 galleries.
Ginny Rush loves to work with her hands, and that is why she participates in First Fridays. A VCU graduate, she creates wearable art made from various metals as Liberatus Jewelry. Rush says she appreciates the city’s vibrant arts community.
“Seeing how Richmond loves its artists is super great,” she said. She hopes that the stronger the arts grow here, the more people will be inclined to make Richmond their home. Rush feels at home presenting her work to art lovers. “I’ve got the support of the city.”
Artists come out to support not only their craft but also the community. Rush donates a portion of what she makes to support breast cancer awareness and research. During the art walk in June, a stand in support of Planned Parenthood was handing out leaves for people to decorate; the group plans to use the leaves to create a mural.
However, artists and vendors cannot just show up if they would like to set up shop for the art walk. According to RVA First Fridays, you must have a peddler’s permit issued by the city to be able to sell on sidewalks.
The art walk was started in 2001 by the Downtown Neighborhood Association with primary funding from the Ukrop’s grocery stores. The event has attracted large crowds each month since then.
While First Fridays has been popular since its inception, it may get a boost when VCU opens its Institute for Contemporary Art at the corner of Belvidere Street and Broad Street – just west of where the art walk begins. The museum is expected to open this fall.