First Thursday: A Monthly Celebration of Art and Community
Walking in to Matt Miller Studio, color explodes off of every wall. The artwork is proudly made in Fayetteville.
Miller is only one of the talented artists in the area. On the first Thursday of every month from April to November, the art community joins up to display their works along the Fayetteville Square.
“It’s like a farmers market, but with art,” said Tanner Montgomery of the Fayetteville Visitor’s Center.
First Thursday began in 2010 as an effort of a group of artists. The artists set up booths around the Square, forming an art walk. The city, realizing the potential of the event, stepped in to provide assistance and funds.
While First Thursday began with an artistic focus, it has grown to include more. Besides the art walk, First Thursday offers a beer garden and live music.
This week, First Thursday will feature Isayah’s All-Stars with Earl Cate. In the past year, 3 Penny Acre and the Sarah Hughes Band have both graced the stage.
New Belgium Brewing Company sponsors the beer garden, Montgomery said. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds go to a different local non-profit each month, such as the Fayetteville Animal Shelter or the MS Society.
The proceeds from the beer served up in October benefit the Ozark Literacy Council, according to firstthursdayfayetteville.com.
While most students may not be looking to acquire any pieces for their private collections, First Thursday is a place to meet friends, grab a beer and enjoy an evening outside on the Square.
Despite the brews and the music, First Thursday is first and foremost a celebration of Fayetteville’s bohemian soul.
“With Fayetteville being such an emerging artistic community, we want to take pride in and promote our artists,” Montgomery said.
All forms of visual art are welcomed, from ceramics to photography to painting. Those with a penchant for the visual arts can swing by firstthursdayfayetteville.com for application information.
“As long as it is personally made around the area, we’ll accept it,” Montgomery said.
Though the visitor’s center sponsors the actual First Thursday event, several events have sprung up in conjunction with the monthly exhibition. Matt Miller Studio, on 21 Mountain St., opens its doors for First Thursday. The Fayetteville Underground, a consortium of artists, hosts gallery showings, Montgomery said.
Other past events have included an Earth Day celebration and a bicycle festival.
The event’s location on the Square also makes for prime shopping and dining at the neighborhood’s locally owned stores and restaurants. Shops like The Moustache and Sound Warehouse often get business from the event.
Everyone is familiar with the most venerable downtown institutions like Hugo’s. So First Thursday, with the sense of discovery, is a fantastic opportunity to visit a less familiar business.
New businesses like pAth Outfitters, which sells quality apparel to outdoor enthusiasts, are opening up in the area. pAth is a collaboration between artist Matt Miller, founder of Lavish Longboards Nick Jones and Bill Harris. Miller, Jones and Harris are, according to Jones, all UA graduates living the dream of starting a unique business.
Any event that brings in customers to local businesses is welcome. Though the event itself is free, people come in to spend money on food, clothes and art.
The sense of community fostered in Fayetteville shines through during First Thursday. Artists, from those with fancy galleries to those selling out of the back of pickup trucks, exemplify the artistic vibe that flows throughout all of the city.