Friday, September 3, 2010

First Fridays

I moved to my hometown of Columbia Missouri in 1980 as a kid.  At the time the downtown was dying, I remember shopping there with my mom and finding it creepy.  Soon afterward, a huge mall opened on the outskirts of town and everyone expected it to be the last nail in the coffin of the downtown.  Instead, the city government, university, and downtown businesses organized and teamed up and agreed to a long-term downtown revitalization effort.  They did all sorts of things, and I don't remember all of them.  But I remember banners and decorations, and I remember that they did First Fridays.  I remember that for a long time it was hard to tell if the revitalization efforts were working or not.  One of my favorite stores moved 3 times, another went out of business, but several cool new stores opened.  Eventually, it did get momentum.  By my late high school years, say 90-91 Columbia's downtown was great, easily the best part of the city and a huge draw for the University.  I recently found some poetry I wrote in high school about how much I loved the downtown, it's too high-schoolish for me to share, but the sentiment is clear.  I grew up watching a downtown revitalization effort that worked.  A few years ago here in Terre Haute, the university, city government, and downtown businesses met to try to start a revitalization effort.  One of the things they are doing here is First Fridays...

The idea of a First Friday is to make it especially easy and attractive to eat, shop, and enjoy art downtown on one evening a month, so you can just stroll around and taking in what you want at a leisurely pace.  The businesses stay open late and often run specials.  The restaurants usually run specials too.  Maybe there will be street musicians or some other entertainer, often there are art gallery openings.  For example, Market Bella Rossa is usually only open for lunch trade, but they'll be open 6-9 for dinner tonight, (and running dinner specials like green curry chicken and pumpkin lasagna), Sept 3rd, and I think all First Fridays.

This month for First Friday (i.e. TODAY and this evening), The Swope Art Museum is reinstalling their "Still Life: New Acquisitions," and starting Todd Anderson's show "Terra Nobilis/The Mountains are Shadows."  The Gopalan Art Gallery is having receptions for the shows of Wendy Calman and Kimberly Arp.  The Halcyon Art Gallery is having their opening reception for James Owen Loney's show "Seven Station into Alchemy."  Likewise, Terre Foods (as in Cooperative Market) is going to be selling local ice cream at 5th and Wabash all day and evening (10am-8pm) for their second annual "Downtown Scoop" event.  Even though Andrew Conner is in charge (I'll be helping out too), the ice cream will be normal flavors (26 of 'em) and normal size cones, and will be from the Yegerlehners in Clay County.  There will be live music by Crooked Creek and PapaPatty, as part of ArtsIlliana's "Live Music Matters" project.
Stop by during the day for some ice cream.  Stop by in the evening for the art shows.  See the new statue, if you haven't yet.  Just walk around and say hi.  Its a good time for community.  I will say that our family has had good luck with attending First Friday's several times in the past, and I'll probably share stories of these during later posts (like the time my 8 year old discussed art and tornadoes with the owner of the Gopalan, or when we got sucked into a bike rally).  One of the things that is important for real downtown revitalization efforts is that many, many sectors have to work together for them to make the city better: the city government, the local businesses, the arts community, the people, even big anchor businesses like the University or the banks that might not seem at first to have much to gain, but rest assured they do too.  These things work, (if they work, they do work sometimes, but they do fail sometimes) because many factions help in their own way.  First Fridays are

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute

P.S.  I think I'm going to try to regularly post on Tues, Wed., Thurs, Friday, take Sundays off, and only occasionally post on Sat or Mon (although I may want to do Farmer's Market related posts on Sat. while its still open.

1 comment:

  1. One of the first things I noticed when coming back to Terre Haute was Wabash Ave. renovation efforts, that is, downtown. The "Book Nation" building is sharp and contemporary art selections at the galleries are outstanding. Just wish I could be in town for ice cream tonight. Last year, Gopalan was serving strawberry ice cream during a show. Every person you met on the sidewalk that evening had big milky white smiles!