It always rains on First Friday.
The saying rings true today, on April 5, as the sky above Downtown Greensboro turns gray early in the morning. According to the National Weather Service, since April 2016, approximately 67 percent of First Fridays have faced rain, yet the plans continue.
The smell of acrylic paint permeates the studio of Greenhill, where a father sits on a barstool beside his elementary-aged daughter, who eagerly smears a green hue across her canvas. Jaymie Meyer, director of education, walks through an adjacent room housing handmade paper bird nests made by local schoolchildren. The bright papier-mâché and the neon decorations of the studio contrast with the dreariness outside.
“I can never tell if [the rain is] going to bring people into the building or if it’s going to make people stay home,” Meyer says. “People don’t like to get wet in Greensboro.”
Despite the weather, guests amble through not only Greenhill but most of the Greensboro Cultural Center. A musician begins to set up in the gallery, Greenhill’s routine First Friday attraction, alongside extended pay-what-you-want studio hours. Adults and children alike sit in front of large pieces of paper strung across a wall-sized, paint-splatter-covered easel.
Across the hall, the Center for Visual Arts hosts the opening reception for Unbound, featuring local creators who hone a literary edge in their artwork. Blackout poetry, textless visual narratives and text-based paintings line the walls. The Greensboro Bound Literary Festival draws together the collaborators, as festival coordinator Deonna Kelli Sayed pours wine for a trio of attendants.
“It feels fresh,” she says of the gallery. “It feels very current and contemporary.”
Outside, the downpour picks up.
Center City Park lays bare, empty as the First Friday Drum Circle postpones its jam session. Sheltered underneath a balcony, a man works his saxophone, sending woody notes through the drumming of the rain. Passersby can see the Voices of God’s Children Community Choir performing through the glass panes in front of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, and some duck inside to listen.
During a quick recess from singing gospel songs, members of the choir and audience exchange memories of the songs and of the Civil Rights movement in the spirit of the venue. A man steps up to a microphone to share a story about his involvement with the protests that took place in the very building, as CEO John Swaine takes a seat at a window. Despite the rain and sometimes difficult parking, he believes First Friday serves as an important platform.
“When it comes down to being an educational hub,” Swaine says, “I want people to be challenged and know more.”
Inside the warm lighting of Oscar Oglethorpe, Dune Sea strums an upbeat melody. Three separate acts prep for a Sofar Sounds show, a pop-up concert that only confirmed its location and time yesterday.
Energy overflows the small space as optician Liz Wall snaps a picture of some flyers to advertise the last few remaining seats on social media. The wind whips up, and she glances outside at the weather.
“It’s like it doesn’t even rain on other Fridays,” Wall laughs.
A couple strolls around as it gets dark, looking for an outdoor market that closed early due to weather. The woman tugs on his shirt, pointing to the open door of Just Be, a gift boutique located on Elm Street across from Natty Greene’s.
Elsewhere’s brightly colored insides pop as the sun sets and solidifies a starless night. Communications Manager Amelia Nura ruminates on the night’s success in front of a gigantic chalkboard calendar. For her, Elsewhere’s happenings vary, but always bring together different art communities, fitting First Friday as she sees spaces connecting along Greensboro’s busiest streets.
“I see a lot of organizations and businesses try to drive people down South Elm,” Nura says.
A middle-aged man inspects the right wall of the first room in the makeshift museum, digging a plastic building block out of a wooden display bin. A few other guests straggle around the first floor following a curator talk, enjoying Elsewhere’s signature strangeness right up until the evening slows to a close.
“It always rains on First Friday,” Nura says. “But there’s always a lot of life.”