F e b r u a r y   2 0 0 1

Guest Writer

First Thursday: the art of a community effort
Art Scene
by Tania Rain

First Thursday attracts thousands of people out for a night of gathering with friends and viewing artwork at various galleries in downtown Portland. Each month the galleries work hard to show new exhibits, with openings coinciding on the same day.

This began in 1986 due to the late William Jamerson, who had observed the popularity of similar events in other cities, according to Elizabeth Leach of Elizabeth Leach Galleries. The First Thursday Association began with six galleries, including Leach's. Now 12 galleries are a part of the monthly event. Many other downtown businesses also open for the event, even though they may not be a part of the First Thursday Association.

"First Thursday is a grassroots movement that promotes the education of art while also promoting individual businesses," Leach says. She adds that the event has proven to be successful beyond wildest expectation.

Art galleries have become leaders in the community by setting a structure for people to have better access to art. "Galleries can be intimidating," says Stephanie Schlicting, director of the Blackfish Gallery. "First Thursday offers people an opportunity to visit galleries that they might otherwise feel uncomfortable entering."

When asked if First Thursday has proven to be lucrative, Leach replied, "Galleries get taken for granted. They offer a social service and educational information."

Even though First Thursday is a social activity, the audience does look at the art. Many viewers, becoming more familiar with contemporary art, return to galleries. And some become buyers. Although First Thursday itself has not been lucrative for many galleries, connections made each month prove to be financially rewarding in the long run -- both for galleries and contributing artists.

First Thursday has also attracted many artists who set up booths or lay down blankets on the sidewalks of the Pearl District. Some artists are selling their work at low prices because they do not have to pay a commission to the galleries. Others are there for exposure and entertainment only -- many perform live art in the streets, and singers, musicians, puppet artists and live installations are among them.

Although First Thursday has evolved over 15 years and grown to include restaurants, hair salons, hoards of people in the streets and individual artists -- sometimes appearing to be a circus -- the event has become ingrained in the art community. The next First Thursday is Feb. 1, while next month's falls on March 1. Times vary at many galleries. Most receptions are between 6-9 p.m. For more information, pick up a First Thursday gallery guide at participating galleries and restaurants in the downtown area or visit one of the following:

Laura Russo Gallery: 805 NW 21st Ave.
Alysia Duckler Gallery: 1236 NW Hoyt St.
Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery: 522 NW 12th Ave.
PICA: 219 NW 12th Ave.
Margo Jacobsen Gallery: 1039 NW Glisan St.
Blackfish Gallery: 420 NW 9th Ave.
Mark Wooley Gallery: 120 NW 9th Ave., #210
Elizabeth Leach Gallery: 207 SW Pine St.
Froelick Gallery: 817 SW 2nd Ave.
Augen Gallery: 817 SW 2nd Ave.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Leach of the Elizabeth Leach Gallery and Stephanie Schlicting of the Blackfish Gallery.

See more from Tania in our archives.

site design / management / host: ae
© 2001-2005 nwdrizzle.com / all rights reserved.