by Brian Clarey
We didn’t always have First Friday, the day when all the downtown art galleries and shops showcase the best pickings from the entire Triad arts scene, around here. Or maybe we did. I don’t know — I’ve only lived here for 14 years. But I remember clearly when it started in the salad days of the downtown districts of both Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
There wasn’t much going on back then. Winston-Salem had only recently designated its Downtown Arts District anchored around Sixth and Trade streets, which at the time was a cultural oasis in a neighborhood that had a lot more grit than it does today. In Greensboro, they used to turn the downtown streetlights off after 10 p.m. before Joey Medaloni set up shop on South Elm Street. At least that’s the way I remember it.
Years and years of work went into the First Friday events in both cities, with arts councils forming the initial response teams that came to include business owners, non-governmental organizations, bars and restaurants, gallery curators and the artists themselves.
Now, when the weather acts right, First Friday is a full-blown occasion in either city, with street acts, wine-and-cheese openings, live performances and special events.
This week, First Friday hits with what should be its first warm-weather staging of the year, sort of an appetizer to the heavy season of monthlies that picks up steam as the days grow longer.
I go whenever I can, usually with the family, to stroll down the thoroughfare and take it all in. On a good night there will be thousands out there, all enjoying the night together.
It’s the kind of thing people do in cities. And at this point in Triad history, we’ve gotten pretty good at it.