The First Friday Artwalk is a monthly occurrence that draws a good crowd according to the gallery owners, but many people aren’t aware of it. On the first Friday of every month, several galleries and businesses in Downtown Ellensburg showcase art for the public, and provide food and beverages while doing so. Downtown Ellensburg comes to life on the evening of the art walk, with filled restaurants and crowded galleries. The First Friday Art Walk starts at 5 p.m. and ends around 7 p.m. and it is a free, all ages event.
Monica Miller, Director of Gallery One Visual Arts Center, gave some background information on how the art walk started in Ellensburg. She said that former director of Gallery One, Mary Francis, joined the Ellensburg Arts commission, which is responsible for coordinating the effort of First Friday. Francis moved to Ellensburg from Seattle, where the concept of First Thursday was very popular, and she wanted to bring the same idea here. Miller discussed how the First Friday Art Walk is a great way to bring the community together.
“We’re committed to creating community through creativity and First Friday is a wonderful way to do that. It gives us the opportunity to introduce the artists in the community to each other, and also to the community at large. We’re committed monthly to changing out our exhibits and introducing the community to new art and new artists,” Miller said. “We hope to reach as wide of a population as possible so that everybody feels welcome here regardless of their artistic capabilities or their knowledge about art. The most important thing is that people feel comfortable in this space so that they can create dialogue and create connections with each other.”
Gallery One has showcased various artists throughout the years, displaying as many as 250 pieces of art per year. One of the artists who has had recognition at Gallery One is Lynne Harrison, a photographer who captures pictures of travel and landscapes. She has traveled to many places, such as Morocco and Peru.
“In a lot of the photographs that I take, I really want to encourage people to see things from a different perspective and encourage them to be active participants in exploring the world, to inspire them to see things that they’re seeing in the photographs, and basically to be able to celebrate the art we encounter everyday,” Harrison said.
In 1999, Harrison became an academic advisor at CWU, and years later worked at the Wellness Center, retiring from the school in 2013. She has been a participant in the art walk at a number of different exhibitions, being featured at the public library, Gallery One, Iron Horse, Gard Vintners and at Brix.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing that Ellensburg does. We have a really vibrant arts community and the art walk is an important part of that. Different artists of all medians, from sculpture, to photography, to paintings, get to exhibit their work and people in the community get to see so many beautiful creations,” Harrison said.
The Clymer Museum and Gallery is also a popular spot for the First Friday Art Walk, hosting 200-400 people for the event. Mia Merendino, director and curator of the Clymer Museum, encourages college students to come to the event.
“I would like to get more college students from Central to come visit during First Fridays because it’s fun, it’s free, it’s a great environment, and you get to look at wonderful things,” said Merendino. “We always have live music, wine, and appetizers, it’s a celebration of the exhibit.”
Merendino also invites people to check out the next show hosted at the gallery called the “The Picture Opera” by Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) whose work focused on photographing Native Americans. The show starts on Feb. 15 ending on March 30, and the Friday when the show will be featured in the art walk is March 1.