Take time for a second impression of First Friday

I spent last semester in a sense of wonder. As a student studying abroad in London, everyday was literally an adventure. Sure, the occasional class got in the way, but the past few months were

I spent last semester in a sense of wonder. As a student studying abroad in London, everyday was literally an adventure. Sure, the occasional class got in the way, but the past few months were mostly spent discovering things that I had never been exposed to before. As the Brits would say, it was brilliant.

But incredible experiences shouldn’t end upon returning to the States. I’ve made my way back across the pond, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve done everything worth doing this side of the Atlantic.

Now that I am back I have vowed to scale every nook and cranny of Philadelphia’s urban landscape and seek out the unearthed jewels of a city. I will never stop exploring. The first treasure I stumbled upon is First Friday.

While the event is popular with Philadelphians, the evening consists of its own hidden gems that the average Temple student is unaware exists – until now. Hence the name, the event is held the first Friday of every month when galleries of Old City open their doors to the public and art can be admired free of charge. Since its debut in 1991, First Friday has given city residents and visitors the chance to experience, rain or shine, the most highly concentrated group of art galleries in the city completely free. With nearly 40 galleries to visit on First Friday, it’s impossible to see them all in one night.

But there are three that can’t be missed: the Hot Soup Glass Studio, the Temple Art Gallery and the old “Real World: Philadelphia” house.

Hot Soup Glass Studio is a bit off the beaten path at 26 S. Strawberry St., but once the side street is found off Market Street between 2nd and 3rd streets, it’s completely worth the search. The newly expanded studio offers classes and demonstrations on glassblowing, or creating artwork with glass. The less adventurous
can purchase artist-made rings, earrings, necklaces and ornaments for sale.

Hot Soup is Philadelphia’s only glassblowing studio and gallery open to the public, and the demonstrations are unlike any art form seen before. Artists wear UV protective glasses that seem a bit on the silly side, but without this safety precaution, the flame used for glass blowing could easily cause eye damage.

Using the kiln at the back of the store, the glassmakers risk their vision while entertaining yours as they use an intense flame and a series of tools to create the spectacle. The results may be impressive, but the studio’s natural gas bill is far from envious. A word to the wise: your peers at the Tyler School of Art are quite the talented bunch. Don’t believe me? Check out the Temple Art Gallery at 259 N. 3rd St. The gallery currently hosts works by international artists chosen by curator Elizabeth Thomas.

This season’s exhibit is intended to explore empathy, defined as the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings and motives.

The artists display the meaning of empathy through expressions of communication and understanding.

Works of art on display include drawings, installations, performances, videos
and sound works.If you don’t dig basketball games, show your school spirit this season by checking out the Temple Art Gallery beginning March 14, when graduating masters of fine arts students from Tyler School of Art showcase their latest work. Built in 1907 and recognized on the Philadelphia Register of Historical Places in 1977, the former “Real World: Philadelphia” building at 249-251 Arch St. first served as the Union National Bank of Philadelphia.

The safes and seven strangers are long gone, but the doors remain open for a peek into a less dramatized version of real world art – sans the hot tub and drunken debauchery. The site is now home to F.U.E.L., a gallery entirely devoted to the promotion of emerging young artists. By allowing art students to compete for space in the studio, F.U.E.L., or Fostering Undergraduate Exposure on Location, offers aspiring artists the chance to showcase their work for free, and for many, to the public for the first time.

Most “Real World” sites have been converted into private residences, or like the Las Vegas site, are only open to the public after dropping thousands of dollars at a check-in desk.

The home store Crate and Barrel as well as Apple computers are rumored to have interest in converting the site to a store, so check it out before this jewel loses its shine. With the local restaurants and bars featuring specials just for First Friday, even a student on the tightest budget can have a good time in Old City on the first Friday of the month. These galleries are just an example of the gems that Philadelphia has to offer.

Galleries are just one of the many things in Philly that have that certain sparkle.

I’ll be looking for and writing about things with that certain radiance from all over the City of Brotherly Love.

Lauren Hard can be reached at Lauren.Hard@temple.edu.

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