[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — First Fridays has been a tradition for more than 14 years in downtown Phoenix, growing into an event that sprawls across miles of downtown Phoenix and draws more than 10,000 people each month. It can seem daunting for newcomers or those who haven’t been in a while. It would be impossible to see every gallery or browse every booth in one night, especially those isolated in outlying areas. For those, it’s probably best to check ahead of time to see if they are holding a show that might draw your interest, or whether they’re even open that night.
A lot of the action is centered around three main areas. And a free city shuttle can get you to the outlying galleries. It’s best to figure out what type of experience you’re looking for, then head to the spot that can give it to you. [Click here for interactive map.]
Roosevelt Row. The epicenter of First Fridays, the Roosevelt area has high-end galleries. But it might be marked more for the row of vendors set up on Garfield Street between Fourth and Sixth streets, and along Fifth Street between Garfield and McKinley streets. There, you can buy $5 sunglasses, $2 strings of beads, handmade necklaces, and small paintings. “In the beginning (of the night), it’s families, high-school and college kids,” said Celia Chavarin, 34, who was selling homemade handbags at a recent First Fridays evening.
As the night goes on, the people become a little bit more colorful, a little more artistic. “That’s a good way to put it,” Chavarin said. She gestured toward her mother, Lupe, who makes the handbags. “It was her first time, so it was a big of a shock.” This is an area where families can wander with strollers. They can catch a bit of art, browse affordable vendors and feel that they’ve been out to First Fridays.
Grand Avenue. Fewer people, no vendors, and a little more space between galleries, Grand Avenue allows more time to concentrate on the art hanging on the walls, not the people walking up and down the street. Gallery owners on the diagonal street call themselves the true artistic home of First Fridays. “Here, people are looking at the art,” said Steve Gomph, owner of gallery Deus Ex Machina. “There (Roosevelt Row), people are mainly there for the street experience.”
There is street parking along Grand Avenue. And although there are a lot of galleries, they are a bit spread out. Expect to walk a block or two between stops.
Melrose. This is the least concentrated of the First Fridays “areas” and the one with the fewest galleries. But the night provides an opportunity to explore the funky shops and antique stores of this burgeoning corner of the city around Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road. “I drive through it all the time, but I’m always headed somewhere else,” said Beth Brezinsci, 37, of Scottsdale, sitting at Copper Star Coffee, at Seventh Avenue and Heatherbrae Drive. “This is a good opportunity to explore.”
A dog-washing shop has animals out for adoption. Vendors are set up in a parking lot outside the coffee shop and Revolver Records, at Seventh Avenue north of Indian School Road. Some antique furniture stores stay open late.