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First Friday Art Walk[Part_1]

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/firstfrida_3136.mp3

Randy Stewart talks with Springfield artist and gallery owner Jan Hyde, one of the founding members of the First Friday Art Walk.

Jan Hyde has been a fixture in downtown Springfield for a number of years in her own art gallery. She's also one of the founders of the enormously successful First Friday Art Walk, the first Friday evening of every month from 6 to 10 pm.

JAN HYDE: The First Friday Art Walk is not original in terms of Springfield--it's done by a lot of major cities. It is a self-guided tour--basically, people that come out will get a map and a list of those venues that are open, and basically what they're showing, what the exhibition is. They can come and see what they want to see--they don't have to do it all.

RANDY: Now, the whole idea is to have a number of venues or art galleries within walking distance of each other, basically?

JAN: Yes. When we started, we very quickly decided on boundary lines, simply because we did want to create somewhat of an "art district." You find one parking space and you park your car, and then you just move from location to location.

RANDY: When did it start?

JAN: We started eight years ago, and had maybe just five spaces, five venues.

RANDY: Were there more than that already downtown, or was that really all there was to work with at the time?

JAN: Yes--everybody joined up right away. We enlisted everybody that was down there. And when we started it was done in a quarterly way. We didn't have a title. And we started doing it, and it was very slow at first.

RANDY: Do you happen to remember who the galleries were at first?

JAN: It was Randy Bacon Gallery; the MSU (SMS at the time) Gallery; the Keyes Gallery; Walnut Street Gallery; and the Mudhouse was another one. And also Drury was involved in it, but at that particular time it was the Cox Gallery. Even though they weren't within walking distance they were kind of grandfathered in, and they were real supportive and excited about being a part of it.

RANDY: Basically what you're saying is, in the past eight years, because of the fact that it's grown so huge now, the list every month, this means that a lot of galleries have opened in those eight years.

JAN: Yes, it was very difficult at first! (chuckles) You know, we kind of hung in there. We had to kind of, occasionally, build each other up and say, "Hey, let's stick with it, let's continue with it." It started out slow. We had a few hundred people that would show up, and if the weather was bad nobody would come. But we hung in there and we diligently kept doing it. Then we came up with the idea--I don't remember how long ago, must've been maybe seven years ago--that we came up with the title "Every First Friday." And then, if it was a holiday, we'd close. If it was the 4th of July weekend, well, we wouldn't do it. And by that time there was momentum--we'd get some nasty phone calls if we weren't open! So since then, that's where we are.

RANDY: You're there every month regardless.

JAN: Every month, regardless.

RANDY: Have all those galleries opened downtown in the past seven or eight years, or were they there and just not participating yet?

JAN: No, they weren't there. And what's interesting is, because the downtown--there's such a renaissance going on--the buildings are expensive. To have a great location and great building is really not affordable for an art venue.

RANDY: Which makes it all the more remarkable that so many are down there!

JAN: Oh, absolutely. So what I'm saying is, a lot of different venues are doing OTHER things. Randy Bacon, you know, he does photography, but he has created a beautiful gallery. You know, what's really brought these other venues down(town) is the fact that there's so much excitement in our community in coming out to see the visual arts.

RANDY: How many galleries are there now?

JAN: Twenty-five. And in our by-laws, we also encourage--there are a few locations that just open as a one-time affair, so an artist locally can come in and do a show just for a one-time thing, which is kind of exciting also.

RANDY: Do you feel like it's almost TOO large? Do you feel it's unwieldy at all, with as many galleries as are involved now?

JAN: Well, you know, I remember, because I have had my gallery for 18 years, and I was alone when I first opened (chuckle), and to try to get people to come in, you always served refreshments. I don't know how many bottles of wine I opened as a welcoming! And you know, now it's so amazing to have people line up at the door to come in, and not expect a thing in terms of refreshments, but to come in and really look at the art and enjoy it. And that's what's really created the success of it. It is the support of the community.

Links:

  • Springfield Regional Arts Council
  • Springfield Regional Arts Council
  • Springfield Regional Arts Council