Despite the significant challenges brought about by COVID-19, a tight-knit community like the one that has been cultivated in Spokane always prevails.
First Friday is a glimmering example of that community.
The event is held on the first Friday of each month in downtown Spokane to encourage and uplift the Spokane community while promoting local businesses and artists.
“A huge part of our economy is the creative class, this includes visual artists, musicians, chefs, wine and beer makers, and more,” said Elisabeth Hooker, the marketing and programming director for the Downtown Spokane Partnership Business Improvement District. “Spokane is full of talent, but it wasn’t appreciated until recently.
Events like First Friday give artists a platform to begin to sell art and to make a living for themselves as an artist. It also provides an opportunity for patrons to discover something new, or someone new.”
First Friday is one way that Spokane has continued to support its local businesses as well as local artists in the area even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It creates a meaningful event each month for the Spokane community.
First Friday is an event held in locations all across the country, giving cities the opportunity to promote businesses and encourage involvement in art, music and the greater community.
Along with just about every other event planned to take place in recent months, First Friday was affected by COVID-19 and had to be reassessed in light of social distancing and government guidelines.
“It’s of course been changing a lot since the pandemic hit, and just like businesses have had to find a way to innovate to keep their doors open, First Friday has been doing the same the last few months,” Kevin Campbell, business relations coordinator of the Downtown Spokane Partnership Business Improvement District said.
Throughout the past several months, First Friday did not happen in person, but was offered as a virtual event in the form of an online open gallery and a virtual panel discussion.
Now, the event has moved more in person, while still offering several ways to get involved virtually.
“We expect to hold both in-person and online activities for a while moving forward,” Hooker said.
Campbell said that this month’s First Friday held on Sept. 4th included many different ways to support local Spokane businesses.
“We’ve got some bars and bistros that are featuring art that people can come and see in person, and we have some virtual events where people can get on Zoom and participate. It’s a fun variety,” Campbell said.
Although the event is smaller due to COVID-19, many businesses participated in First Friday for September.
“While the event is focused on galleries, often tasting rooms, restaurants, coffee shops and more will participate,” Hooker said.
180 Bar and Bistro, SaranacART, The Clay Connection, Auntie’s Bookstore, Chase Gallery and several other businesses participated in the First Friday event this month.
Since the pandemic, an aspect of First Friday that has become virtual is Auntie’s Bookstore’s “3 Minute Mic.” For seven years, Auntie’s Bookstore has been offering this open poetry mic which involves local poets and is a creative way to inspire the participating Spokane community.
“I think that local business is really important to the health of our community,” said Claire Davey, the events coordinator of Auntie’s Bookstore. First Friday additionally features one artist each month as the poster artist. Free posters which feature the month’s artwork can be picked up at River Park Square or the Spokane Visitor’s Center during the event.
This month, the poster artist was Frankie Benka, who created the work “Steam Plant.”
Frankie Benka is an artist from Spokane who creates many forms of visual art such as painting, ceramic art, sculpture and photography.
“The inspiration for this month’s poster is the Steam Plant and looking at things in a different light. Literally,” Benka said.
First Friday holds an important place in the hearts of its participants.
“First Friday is important because art is important,” Benka said. “I think it is especially important to keep First Friday alive during the pandemic because people need a break from all the doom and gloom and find something that uplifts their soul.”
Something as important as art and local businesses can encourage and inspire our community at any time, but especially during a pandemic where encouragement is so greatly needed.
“Art doesn’t have to be hung in a museum to be appreciated, nor does it have to be expensive, Hooker said. “You can find joy in objects or moments just about anywhere and we are proud to provide First Friday as a platform for that to happen.”