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First Friday has a mixed economic track record for galleries

Every First Friday for 10 years, hordes of teenagers and culture lovers descend on the 18b Arts District, migrating from gallery to gallery and weaving between outdoor vendors.

But for galleries, those crowds don’t always translate into sales. Marty Walsh, owner of Trifecta Gallery, founded her space nine years ago. Before that, she worked at the Contemporary Arts Center. So she’s been in the Arts District from the beginning.

“It’s gotten bigger,” she said. “The focus is not on the art anymore. It’s a theatrical production with some art thrown in. It’s not my bread and butter anymore, but it used to be.”

Before it blew up, back when First Friday was a smaller, more focused art walk, Walsh used to make a lot of sales. Not anymore.

“We lose money on First Friday,” she said.

Blackbird Studios owner Gina Quaranto agreed. “People don’t come in to buy art on First Friday,” she said.

Nonetheless, both women not only support the festival, they say it put the Arts District, and art in Las Vegas, on the cultural map. It continues to draw newcomers to the district. Some of those visitors may eventually become artists and buyers themselves.

“I’d like to say we make connections on First Friday,” Quaranto said. “People do know that all the artists will be there, and they come out for that.”

Quaranto launched her art career at First Friday and eventually became a gallery owner. Walsh, who started out in galleries, credits the event for sustaining her gallery in the early years.

“First Friday is what got me started and noticed,” she said. “Now I think of it more as building for the future. We are seeing tomorrow’s art-buyers. In a generation, they’re going to know what downtown is and where the Arts District is.” AMY KINGSLEY