The Las Vegas arts scene has been around for many years, but it wasn’t until 2002 when a non-profit organization known as Whirlygig, Inc., began hosting First Friday that the arts community in the city was made more accessible to everyone. First Friday has turned into a huge block party and arts street festival (encompassing 20 total blocks) that occurs the first Friday of every month from 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
The main festival area is five blocks in downtown Las Vegas area on Main Street and Casino Center between Charleston Boulevard and Imperial. This is closed off to traffic, and artists, musicians and entertainers spread out across the sidewalks. A wide array of jewelry, paintings, ceramics, crafts, photography, textiles, clothing, music and glassware are on sale from street vendors. More than 80 local businesses are open as part of First Friday, including antique, furniture, vintage clothing and art stores. There are many art galleries in this area as well, and all are open for viewing during First Friday.
The Arts Factory, a two-story building with several galleries packed inside, is one of the main draws during First Friday. It has an impressive range of art for sale, and many of the galleries have rotating exhibits. There is usually a living art piece available for viewing through the front window of the building.
It is not uncommon to see street performers throughout the festival area. Several musicians play on street corners, and occasionally there are fire breathers, fortune tellers, ice sculptors and other interesting characters wandering around First Friday. Local restaurants and bars are open and welcome festival revelers, and several street food vendors also set up shop in the area.
Parking near the main festival area is limited and can be expensive, but the First Friday committee offers a free shuttle, which runs every half hour from the Clark County Government Center (where parking is free) to the Holsum Design Center, Commerce Street studios, Colorado and Main galleries and festival area, and Main and Boulder Arts Factory area. This part of town is also easily accessible from the Las Vegas Strip, and visitors hoping to check out the local art scene can take a short cab ride to reach it.
First Friday is really a labor of love and has ebbed and flowed over the years as funding comes and goes. It is free to attend First Friday, but there is a table set up in the main festival area that is open for donations if you’d like to support the event.
Photo credit: Cory Haugen (may not be used without permission)