Thursday, January 17th, 2019

First Friday a first for some, business as usual for others

Aaron Damon

Posted on September 08, 2014 in Arts & Culture
By Krysteana Scribner

Last Friday saw over 3,000 visitors, performers and local artists crowd Congress Street in Portland for a monthly tradition: The First Friday Art Walk. For some individuals it was the first time seeing this creative side to the Old Port.

Crowded Buses ran between the Gorham campus and Monument Square, which allowed students to get to the event with ease. Caroline Boston, Rachel Shokan, and Emily Benoit are all incoming freshmen who hadn’t experienced an art walk before and jumped on the bus to satisfy their curiosity.

“We don’t really know what to expect, and we’re really excited to check it out and explore Portland a little more,” said Boston, a Nursing major at USM.

Benoit, a Psychology major, commented by saying, “We heard there was food, music and jewelry for sale – all things that intrigue us. So we thought, ‘why not?’ and decided to all go together!”

For Shokan, a Vocal Performance major, the street creatives and crowded sidewalks didn’t feel much different in comparison to the City of Boston in which she is from. The experience as a whole was still a novel one.

“I know what to expect in regards to the street life, but we still have no idea what this event is all about,” said Shokan.

Other students being dropped off at Monument Square gazed at the performers up ahead and curiously meandered around booths where a variety of homemade crafts were being sold.

Celebrated the first of every month, the Art Walk is Maine’s largest free cultural event and most of Portland’s galleries, studios and museums open their doors inviting the public to appreciate and potentially purchase some visual art.

Artists from any background and experience level are welcome at the Art Walk. While the Portland Museum of Art showcases the renowned work of America’s foremost photorealistic painter, Richard Estes, outside are less experienced vendors from all walks of life. Everything and anything from paintings, sculptures, photographs, jewelry, clothing can be seen peddled on the streets. More unique items like custom woodworking, license plates with an artistic refurbish and paper-mache theater masks can also be found strewn about on some vendor tables.

The goal of the Portland Art Walk is to encourage a range of individuals to think about buying local. The art walk isn’t just restricted to the visual arts either. Local performers such as magicians, dancers and vocalists show off their talents hoping to entertain crowds and make a name for themselves. From the mellow notes of an acoustic guitar, to the twangy sounds of a steampunk bluegrass band, the art walk is a busker’s field day, with almost every corner filled with a unique auditory experience.

Among the students who attended the event, Rachel Gates, a third year communications major at USM had her own booth where she sold her own creative wares. Gates strategically claimed an area right in the center of the art walk near the Maine College of Art. As potential customers walked up to her booth, she made sure to welcome them and give a little background about her art.

According to Gates, she makes and sells art in a variety of mediums, and recently began creating screen printed tank tops that she hopes will catch the attention of her customers.

She also says that she always had a knack for drawing and painting growing up and after attending a few art walks last summer, she wanted to begin sharing her work with others.

“The cool part about being a part of this art walk is that once you start selling things, you begin to notice all the other things going on around you, and human creativity is really amazing.” Although this is only her second year, Gates plans on coming back for many more years to come.

At the end of the night, students walking back to the bus laughed and talked highly of the event they had just attended. “Our Resident Assistants really encouraged us to come to this event, and I’m really glad we did!” says Boston, as she heads back to the bus after a long night in Portland.

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