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What Makes Spokane Great: First Friday

First Friday Spokane
The reasons Bloomsday, Hoopfest, the Lilac Parade and other events in Spokane are so successful can be traced back to great thinking by great minds.

First Friday is no different.

This celebration of drawings, paintings, sculptures, music, theatre and much more happens the first Friday of just about each month in downtown Spokane, bringing artists, businesses and the community together.

Let’s take a look at how First Friday began and how beneficial it is to the businesses involved and our community. First Friday SpokaneSpokane residents might remember Live after 5, the Thursday celebration of music in downtown Spokane. Residents might also recall the Visual Arts Tours and various art exhibits that happened the first Friday of each month (the Visual Arts Tours still happen twice a year).

In the 1990’s, City Arts Director Karen Mobley arrived at the Spokane Arts Commission. Marketing the existing art exhibits was difficult, given the available resources.

“When I first came, we basically had a Xerox copy that we’d make in our office and run around to the art galleries,” Mobley said. “That was about the sum total of the marketing.”

Enter Annie Matlow of the Downtown Spokane Partnership at the time, and now the Spokane Symphony, and the seeds of First Friday were planted. With Live After 5 celebrating music, and the art exhibits celebrating art, Matlow and Mobley figured if they wanted to grow the arts around town, why not combine the two?

“We kind of morphed it all together so that the art galleries, the Live After 5 people and others started working together,” Mobley said.

The Arts Commission now pairs area artists with different businesses for First Friday. The public can make it from venue to venue with ease. In 2004, Marla Nunberg of the Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) started partnering with the Arts Commission to promote First Friday. The DSP produced Live After 5 and the art exhibits all along, and this shows how all those events and organizations morphed together.

Say you were strolling through downtown Spokane this Friday. If you visit Barrister Winery, you’d be able to see the works of Spokane artist Brendan Genther, as well as enjoy some nice acoustic blues from Lyle Morse. Then, you might make your next stop at The Davenport Hotel’s Peacock Lounge, where you’d be treated to jazz and pop hits from Nicole Lewis.

If that wasn’t enough, you could also make your way to the Arbor Crest Tasting Room in River Park Square to sample some wine and check out the art from Larisa Amland (who just happens to be a new Spokane resident. Welcome!).

Needless to say, there’s plenty to do and see on First Friday.

Mobley said two groups benefit from First Friday: the galleries that host the art and the downtown bars and restaurants. With people walking around downtown during First Friday, the more likely they are to stop by a gallery or a restaurant. First Friday is great because any business can host. Edward Jones Investments participates, as does a variety of wineries, hair salons and boutiques.

“First Friday gives businesses the opportunity for more public exposure,” said Tammy Pruitt of the DSP. “It provides our local artists with additional venues to display their work and it gives the public a chance to see parts of their downtown neighborhood they may not always frequent.”

First Friday happens downtown, but that doesn’t mean Spokane’s art only lives downtown. Other areas offer art walks and tours, such as South Perry’s Third Thursdays, The Garland Street Fair and various events at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, among others (who can forget ArtFest each year?)

With all the art, attractions and fun on these Friday nights, isn’t this one feature that makes Spokane great?

First Friday Spokane

Photos courtesy of the Downtown Spokane Partnership

5 Responses to What Makes Spokane Great: First Friday

  1. Annie Matlow says:

    What a great reminder of how First Friday came about and what a vibrant important part of Spokane’s art scene it has become! See you there!

  2. First Friday is so successful that the Gallery of THUM still sees dozens if not double dozens of visitors to our gallery even though we are 6 minutes and 1.8 miles from downtown. We are temporarily outside of the downtown core but still consider ourselves a downtown gallery. When the time is right we will be right back where we prefer, close in to the hubbub of the downtown experience. We love the idea of First Friday so much we participate every month. We also have Last Friday too, along the Monroe Street Corridor coming right out of downtown proper along the Grand Promenade that Monroe Street has always been for Spokane. See you on First Friday all!

  3. I really enjoy being downtown, and First Friday is a fun way to explore downtown Spokane. I would love to get more involved with what is happening in the city core. I really want to see it grow and flourish. I’m just not sure how or where to get involved.

  4. Wesley –

    There are four organizations that work to promote Spokane, downtown Spokane and more:

    Greater Spokane Incorporated (that’s us!) –
    Downtown Spokane Partnership –
    Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau –
    Spokane Regional Sports Commission –

    Contact any or all of them and see what options you have to get involved. All of us love it when the public wants to be involved!

    – Kevin Dudley, Greater Spokane Incorporated

  5. Great thing that Spokane has for its community. First Friday, check it out!

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