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First Friday is changing — for August, anyway

Heeding the feedback that First Friday has all but forgotten the art-walk aspect that spurred its launch in 2002, organizers will change up next week’s edition to better highlight both the visual arts and the galleries south of Charleston Boulevard. Here’s what they’ve told us:

1. Winter is coming in summer: First Friday’s creative marketing and PR rep Charles Ressler promises an “experiential, heightened-sensory exhibit” to stretch down a portion of Casino Center Drive, typically the thoroughfare occupied by vendor tents, performers and food trucks. Those ancillary components will largely move north of Charleston, and in their place will be a winter-themed display dubbed AntARTica, conceived in part to play against the type of our usual summer First Friday experience.

In addition, by making the usual outdoor experience more aligned with art, foot traffic into the nearby galleries may rise again. “One of [First Friday’s] major goals … is to grow the idea out of artist patronage, and start to communicate with patrons,” says Ressler. “It’s important to support the artists and grow a viable community, [one that’s] an arts leader in the country.”

2. First Friday picked an all-star team of local artists: To theme and populate AntARTica, organizers lured names usually associated with the event’s biggest exhibit openings. Artists on paper mache and (recyclable) Styrofoam animal/creature duty include Miguel Rodriguez, Jennifer Kleven, Krystal Ramirez, Mikayla Whitmore and Justin Favela. Inflatable glaciers will come courtesy of the creative efforts of Yasmina Chavez and Javier Sanchez. Michael Wardle will head up a perspective street painting project. And the exhibit’s “soundscape” engineer is local musician Mike McDonald (Red Eye Radio).

3. They want YOU: A series of workshops, painting sessions and studio work days will allow prospective volunteers (like you) to join in the creative process. For instance: On July 25-26, from 5-9 p.m., artists of any pedigree can assist the aforementioned Styrofoam sculptors to create the “abominable creatures,” or they can join Wardle in mural painting at sunset July 31-Aug. 1.

4. Music is beautiful: Separate from AntARTica, music booking responsibilities shift from E320 Entertainment to the people behind October’s Life is Beautiful festival, in conjunction with their final monthly downtown showcase.

Two larger stages on the island plot just northeast of Charleston and Art Way will feature the likes of Black Camaro, The Clydesdale, Crazy Chief, HaleAmano and six others. Three smaller stages located at The Arts Factory, Bar + Bistro and Artifice will showcase 15 other local acts, including The People’s Whiskey, Article Pilot, Little Gods and Jinxemgood. Some of those performers are already Life is Beautiful-bound, and others could be after First Friday. (The youth-oriented Shuffle Zone DJ area is to be set up in Boulder Plaza, north of Arts Factory.)

5. Change is the only constant: The new strategies aren’t permanent — yet. According to Ressler, organizers consider and make tweaks according to feedback they receive. September’s event is currently slated to look a lot like July’s unless August’s changes are championed by and proven beneficial to participants, gallery owners and vendors alike. “The plan could change at any given moment based on an idea, or the community saying, ‘That was amazing, please do it again,’” says Ressler. “We have our eyes and ears open.”

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