The popular First Friday Art Crawl in downtown Peterborough has been saved, and will be returning as an organized event on February 1, 2019.
A group of around 12 downtown local artists, stakeholders in the arts community, and local arts-based businesses met earlier today (January 3) at the offices of the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) to assume responsibility for the monthly event.
Organizations represented at the meeting included the DBIA, the Electric City Culture Council, Artspace, the Art School of Peterborough, local artist Joe Stable of Acme Art & Sailboat Co., and creative hub Watson & Lou.
The future of the art crawl — where downtown Peterborough galleries and arts-related businesses open their doors to the public at the same time on the first Friday evening of every month — was thrown into question at the end of December, when Paolo Fortin announced the closure of Evans Contemporary and associated galleries Star X and Coeur Nouveau.
In leading a local group called the Ad Hoc Arts Committee, Fortin has been instrumental in organizing and presenting the art crawl. When announcing the closure of his galleries, Fortin also stated that Evans Contemporary and the Ad Hoc Arts Committee would cease to organize and present the art crawl.
While lauding the success of the art crawl, Fortin expressed concerns that it enables “the gentrification of Peterborough through the use and abuse of the arts” by exploiting arts for the purpose of commerce — pointing to the 14-year-old art crawl in Hamilton, which has since evolved into a largely commercial event.
kawarthaNOW contacted a few of the participants at the DBIA meeting, who indicated their desire to keep the event grass-roots and artist-driven. The group is calling itself the “First Friday Committee” and has already set up an email address at firstname.lastname@example.org along with a Facebook page and a Twitter account, with an Instagram account to come.
In a statement issued this afternoon through its media spokesperson, local artist Jeff Macklin of Jackson Creek Press, the First Friday Committee commented on the closure of Evans Contemporary and thanked Fortin and the Ad Hoc Arts Committee for their work in establishing the Frist Friday Art Crawl.
“We are all saddened by the recent closures of the Evans Contemporary gallery in the Commerce Building,” the statement reads. “In addition to providing high quality arts programming for years, Paolo Fortin and the Ad Hoc Committee created and coordinated the art crawl we have come to know and love, while helping to raise important concerns about gentrification and the affordability of artists’ spaces in our community.
“We are dedicated to engaging with these issues, and are excited to see what projects Ad Hoc will manifest in the future. In the meantime, we are also committed to the continued celebration of our downtown’s unique creative spirit. For that purpose, we are working together to keep the party rolling.”
In the statement, the First Friday Committee also confirmed it is working on “a full slate of openings” for February 1st and that, for January, two events are taking place tonight from 6 to 8 p.m.: the opening of the Art School of Peterborough’s members show, and a free acrylic painting workshop at META4 Gallery Studio along with an exhibition of student art.
The statement from the First Friday Committee also thanks members of the business and arts community who have offered help, as well as the DBIA for facilitating the meeting.
“The DBIA are thrilled to see the First Friday event continue and we are proud of those artists and community members who will work to ensure its continued success,” says Terry Guiel, executive director of the DBIA.
“The positive impact of this monthly event on our downtown is truly magnificent. Not only does it draw huge crowds to our downtown, but it is a wonderful showcase of the immense artistic and musical talent we have in this community. The DBIA is a main financial contributor to the event because we see, hear and feel its impact on the downtown and we will continue to support it moving forward”.