Fayetteville’s First-rate Event
photography by Jessi Leonard
Each first Thursday, the Downtown Fayetteville Square comes to life with an artwalk featuring food, entertainment, live music, and of course, art.
According to the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau (FVB), the concept for First Thursday began with artist Dede Peters. Each first Thursday, Peters’ gallery, which has since closed, debuted a new exhibit. Soon other galleries followed. The Fayetteville Underground began hosting a reception; Kathy P. Thompson Studios and Matt Miller Studio also opened their doors. The FVB developed a plan to incorporate the event with an outdoor element and hoped to allow other artists to join. This was about 18 months ago. The result of this collaboration has become First Thursday, an outdoor family-oriented event, running April through October, sponsored by Adventure Subaru and AY Magazine.
Tanner Montgomery, visitors services manager, FVB, said they are pleased with the growth thus far and that they hope to expand upon its success.
Today, First Thursday runs along Mountain Street and East Avenue in the Downtown Square. These streets are closed, and the music stage, vendors and the beer garden are located along Mountain Street. “The beer garden is sponsored by New Belguim Beer, and a portion of the proceeds benefits a local nonprofit,” Montgomery said. April’s proceeds benefited the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; this month, the monies will be given to Pagnozzi Charities, a nonprofit established by Tom Pagnozzi of University of Arkansas at Fayetteville Razorback baseball and St. Louis Cardinal fame. Each month, a different band will provide live entertainment — May’s band is Eden’s Edge, sponsored by Walton Arts Center.
Artists set up their booths along East Avenue, the site of the East Square Plaza, where the galleries of the Fayetteville Underground, are located. The co-op consists of Hive; E Street Gallery; Revolver; and Vault. The building also houses Corazon, an outlet for Latin-inspired furnishings. Opening his studio as well is artist Matt C. Miller, who houses a space in his studio for jewelry artist Lauren Embree.
Nearly 20 artists’ booths are set up along East Avenue monthly, selling paintings, photographs, jewelry, woodwork items and more. Montgomery said they can accommodate up to 30 artists.
“As spring and summer progress, we hope to incorporate more activities for children, such as a public art display, spin art, sand art and more,” Montgomery said. These booths would join the various other vendors offering food, such as Jammin Java, Hog Brats and others. Other businesses bordering the festival also open their doors. First Thursday will also take on a new aspect this July, August and September when organizers incorporate outdoor movies at 9 p.m.
“First Thursday is a family-oriented event. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all the galleries, artists and studios — and the customers. It’s an especially good opportunity for individuals to purchase art. We want to make this bigger and better. We hope to reach crowds of more than 2,000,” Montgomery said.
Log onto firstthursdayfayetteville.com, and visit their Facebook page FirstThursdayFayetteville for more information.