Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Lifestyles

March 9, 2014

Origins and future of area’s First Friday art events

GRAYSON — Congratulations, regional artists and art advocates!  March 5, 2014, marked the 10-year anniversary of the First Friday Art Walk in Ashland.

From an idea brought forward by Scott Martin to the hardworking board of directors of the former Ashland Area Art Gallery (AAAG) in early 2004, the very first “First Friday” took place on February 2004 inside the gallery, as planned! At the time, the AAAG headed up the effort with a simple plan to keep the gallery open after 5 p.m. to host a free evening reception for a new art show or event each month.

Martin’s fellow AAAG board members — Robert Caummisar, Dan Cheek, myself, Lynn Ann Burnette, Kathy Lewis, the late Jim Maphet, Michael Quade, Margaret Ruth, Debbie Gaines and Cathy Vigor  — rolled up our sleeves and got busy promoting the event.  Sponsors such as the Ashland Area Business Boosters, Bri-Den Roofing and Steen Funeral Home and many more businesses and individuals got out their checkbooks to fund the monthly receptions, which featured individual artists and group shows for the organization, providing refreshments and even some live entertainment from time to time.

I remember our friend Larry Whitt bringing a guitar and an amp and playing throughout one evening — for free — just to help support the effort! Networking was a big part of the evening and I’d venture to say I’m not the only one who formed lifetime friendships and relationships as a result of th

Shortly after the February ’04 kick-off, several others, such as The Upstairs Gallery and The Frame-Up Gallery and well as the Highlands Museum and the Jesse Stuart Foundation, opened their doors to participate on the first Friday of each month. However, there are so many people who took part that I could never name them all — just suffice it to say that the last 10 years have seen a tremendous boom in bringing the arts to the public.

Even after the gallery property was transformed into the Ann Davis Gallery in 2006 when purchased by fellow artist and a huge supporter of the arts Zoe Brewer, and when the Pendleton Arts Center came on the scene in 2006, the participation of Ashland Main Street and the city of Ashland worked together and took everything to the next level.  Streets were closed for the events, stages were set for live music and other forms of entertainment and attendance just took off.

Fast forward several years and a new life in Grayson, as a “transplanted” community advocate. I was fortunate to be named to the Grayson Tourism & Convention Commission by Mayor George Steele.  Bringing my experience in the visual arts and downtown development from my roots in Ashland to the table, an opportunity to put it to work came up during a discussion to use the former Grayson Fire Station as a “rain location” for the successful Anna Robinson Memorial Art Show (hosted by the Carter County Art Guild) in a meeting at the Tourism office. Fellow commissioners took a tour of the space and it was found to be too small to hold all the work by participating artists of that widely known show. 

Meanwhile, just like during that AAAG meeting way back in early 2004, and IDEA was born: Why not use the space as an art gallery?  The thought became a plan and the opening reception for Grayson’s initial “F!nal Fr!days Art & Antiques Walk” took place in May 2011 during Grayson’s Memory Days (a very well-organized project headed by none other than Robert Caummisar and well-attended event with more than 40 years of history).

Now, as the Grayson Gallery & Art Center, Inc. looks forward to celebrating our third year anniversary, we take a look back at our success the past three years and the formation of a corporation and our achieving status as a 501c3 nonprofit entity in 2013. The decision was made to keep the events set for the last Friday each month (particularly chosen so as to not compete with Ashland’s First Friday art Walks) and even though people asked, “Is this the last one?” after a few months of F!nal Fr!days Art Walks in Grayson, these monthly art shows became a must-see and community supported happening.

So, on behalf or all your friends a little east of Ashland and beyond, especially since that seed planted in ’04 continues to grow and has sprouted a neighboring arts event, we thank you all sincerely for your support, your help and participation and we wish you a very happy 10th anniversary, First Friday Art Walk!  We hope to see everyone again soon and look forward to celebrating our own 10 years before you know it.

DAN CLICK is coordinator of Grayson Gallery and Art Center.

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