First Friday makes art free and accessible

Philadelphia has a rich tradition in the arts, from the theaters lining South Broad Street to the history contained within the walls of the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art. What many Philadelphians may not realize

Philadelphia has a rich tradition in the arts, from the theaters lining South Broad Street to the history contained within the walls of the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art. What many Philadelphians may not realize is that there is an art event held every month, and best of all – it’s free!

First Friday is a celebration of everything artistic in Philadelphia. The first Friday of every month, rain or shine, all the art galleries in Old City are open to the public later than normal, and many offer beer or wine for a small donation.

Some of the city’s most exclusive restaurants offer meal deals to entice the crowds walking the streets to stop by for a bite. Art galleries share open houses, and visitors can stroll through at their own pace, whether they intend to shell out the cash for an antique painting, or just browse through all the gallery has to offer.

One thing that makes First Friday unique is the open feel it offers, allowing anyone in, from true art aficionados to curious students.

“We really get a broad spectrum,” said Hilarie Hawley of the Artists’ House Gallery, “from students to patrons to tourists, people just out for the evening.”

Old City is recognized as having the city’s greatest concentration of art, food and culture, outside of the Museum of Art itself. The main art district open for First Friday includes the area from Second Street to Fourth Street, and Race Street to Vine Street. The area is usually so busy on Friday nights that the city suspends parking regulations, allowing street parking almost anywhere, and many private lots stay open extra late.

First Friday visitors also have more than enough choices to make when it comes to art and food. There’s the Indigo Arts Gallery, located at 151 N. Third St., featuring tribal and folk art from Asia, Africa and the Americas. If contemporary is more your style, try Lost Highways.

There’s even the Temple Gallery, which displays the work of students from the Tyler School of Art. Located at 45 N. Second St., Temple Gallery brings students and artists together with a contemporary focus. First Friday offers students the opportunity to view art from emerging artists as well as established ones. If you’re looking for something affordable for an apartment, you have a number of options. Artists’ House offers a wide range of art, as well as prices.

“Artists that were emerging ten years ago now have progressed,” said Hawley. “So now we have affordable pieces from emerging artists today.”

First Friday also boasts a long list of cuisine choices, offering almost any type of food for whatever mood you happen to be in, whether it’s Mediterranean, Asian, Mexican or seafood. Old City even offers theme dining, like Cuba Libre Restaurant, an open-air café that attempts to transport its diners from Philadelphia, 2004 to Havana, circa 1940s.

From sculptures to paintings to cuisine, First Fridays offer Philadelphians the chance to spend an enjoyable evening of culture in the city’s oldest and most historical neighborhood.

First Friday runs every month from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information on any of the galleries, restaurants, or shops participating in First Friday, visit www.oldcityarts.org.

Ross Bercik can be reached at rbercik@temple.edu.

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