As soon as the novelty wears off, First Fridays don’t offer many more surprises. Of course what’s on display in the various galleries is constantly rotated. But for the most part First Friday isn’t prime art-viewing time to begin with, as it’s always crowded and noisy regardless of the venue. Now that spring is upon us, however, sidewalk vendors of arts and crafts and other disciplines contribute more of a counterculture feel to the hullabaloo.
Concentrated primarily at the intersection of Second and Market streets, all manner of things are up for grabs: Lots of handmade jewelry and original clothing items are offered, while both amateur and professional art-makers sell prints, paintings, photographs and occasionally even their old sketch books.
On warm nights prior to the presidential election last year, a lot of activist and politically-themed T-shirts sold well; alternatively, two students this previous Friday were offering to draw portraits in half an hour for $30. They each sold one, but found it disheartening that more of their work had not sold.
Conversely, 20 feet away from the two portrait artists, Adrienne Mills was quite pleased with the response her work gets. Mills, who works as a professional photographer, earns her income doing corporate photos.
“This is the stuff I really feel like doing,” she said of the many prints of models covered in body paint. “It’s fun for me; I get a lot of people who are more interested in being models than in buying. I guess they don’t care about being naked.” Mills comes to Philadelphia from Washington D.C., where she said, “If I tried selling stuff on the sidewalk there, I’d be arrested.”
If you’re not in the market for cool stuff to put on your walls, there’s also quite a clothing trade that goes on there, with hand-knit caps and scarves to finish out winter as well as T-shirts with unique and original designs.
The last First Friday, on April 1, was fairly mild. However, by the time the masses were teeming the Old City sidewalks, it was chilly. Those who choose to come out to sell on sidewalks offer things of their own creation that aren’t necessarily as esoteric as the high concept stuff going on in the galleries, and they often brave cold and chilliness to do that.
Marilyn Peck can be reached at email@example.com.