Did you hear what happened Last Friday?
Fine Arts Blount members are eager to put that question on everyone’s lips this month, and continue the tease throughout the year.
Last Friday Art Walk kicks off on Jan. 25 and will continue monthly through downtown Maryville every last Friday of the month.
Last Friday is a tour through businesses and venues along downtown Maryville’s streets to look, listen, feel and see what the fine arts community in Blount County is up to. Katie Gamble, a Maryville artist and the event organizer, said it will be similar to First Friday, a Gallery Crawl that happens monthly in Knoxville. The special evening, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., will showcase different kinds of art at various stores, clubs, restaurants and retail shops in downtown Maryville.
“It’s called Last Friday with the idea of ‘Do you know what happened last Friday?’ We aren’t calling it a gallery crawl because not all the businesses participating are galleries,” said Gamble. “So we are naming it Last Friday Art Walk.”
Gamble, who is serving as FAB exhibit chair, said she hopes the event grows and becomes something people plan their time around each month. “I want people to think, ‘Oh it’s the last Friday of the month. We’ve got to go down and see what’s new downtown,’” she said.
The First Friday events that happen on Market Square each month in Knoxville were the inspiration for the Last Friday Art Walks.
“For me, I don’t miss a First Friday. All the potential clients are out; it’s a good way to meet other people,” Gamble said. “I’d like to see that happen here. Maryville needs something oriented toward the arts, and our downtown area is being revitalized. People don’t realize how charming it is.”
To get the venture going, Gamble took the idea to the board of directors of Fine Art Blount, which has just recently opened a gallery in the Harper Building, below Dandy Lions.
“We have a rotating monthly exhibit. I told the board that one of the things I thought would make the gallery successful would be to start a whole gallery crawl and get everybody involved. Thankfully, they thought it was good idea.”
With FAB’s support, Gamble put the shoe leather to her dream. “I started going door-to-door downtown, talking to business owners and people who are part of FAB. I think this is going to be good not only for all the artists in town looking for new places to show work, but it’s going to be good for businesses,” she said.
“I don’t want this to die out. I’m going to see this through,” she said. “I’ve got it scheduled for the next year.”
Gamble said that while Maryville artists are enthusiastic about the event, artists from other areas also want to participate. “The artists are thrilled,” she said. “They’re really excited because we don’t have enough galleries and spaces. This gives all kinds of possibilities for showing work.”
Participating businesses downtown will each host a exhibit reception for their featured artists, which will change each month, Gamble said. Some businesses will have “featured Last Friday specials” such as dinner/drink specials running just during the time of the event.
Downtown businesses also are excited about the event because it will bring the community downtown each month. “It was a no-brainer for businesses, and I’ve encourage businesses not participating in the gallery aspect to open just for the commercial aspect of it,” Gamble said. “They (customers) will mosey in if the lights are on and the doors open. The last Friday of the month, there should be a lot of activity downtown.”
Realtor Dan Mizell has been a proponent of downtown redevelopment and said the art walk is a good idea. “We need to create walking traffic downtown, and we have a wonderful art group in this area that a lot of people just don’t know about. They can use that exposure,” Mizell said. “It’s a win-win for everybody. It will bring people into the downtown area to see art on exhibit in different businesses, and people will go into businesses they haven’t been before and see wonderful art.”
Heath Claiborne, owner of the Capitol Theater, said when he first heard about the Last Friday Art Walks, his thought was that he could be an instant participant. “We’ve been here so long, and there really hasn’t been any venues for art. We have artists who want to show their art in my place, and we don’t have enough room. This will let locals know where the artists are,” he said.
Claiborne said he has never seen a lot of traffic downtown looking for art. “I’m really excited. For the first time, there will be people specifically looking for places to view art.
Claiborne is adding a different twist to the Art Walk as he offers his theater for film projects.
“I will have my own art work and new creations for each walk, but I’m also excited to contribute my private theater as part of the crawl as well. People will be able to view classic or independent movies or short films people have created locally in the theater.”
Southland Books owner Lisa Misosky, who sponsored Art Mart at her store for several months on Saturdays during the summer, said the event unites all local people interested in art, including Southern Studios Stainglass and Fine Arts Blount. “It gives artists a venue to be able to exhibit their stuff. It is what we’ve been doing with Art Mart, and we’re glad to be a part of it,” she said.
Stacy Austin will headline at Southland in January and Corrin McIntyre will be featured in February.
Brackins’ Blues Club owner Mark Brackins said Last Friday could bring people downtown. “It’s great for artists with the exposure, and it’s great to bring people to see what’s going on downtown,” he said. “The more people you bring downtown to see it, the better, especially blues lovers.”
Gamble said several individuals asked how people are going to know which businesses are going to participate. Each walk will have one business acting as “host” for the evening.
“FAB will be the host for the first walk and will provide a map with all the businesses participating. The public will know and be able to mosey down each street and make sure they don’t miss anything,” she said. “Whoever hosts the art walk in the future will be responsible for that map.”
Gamble said the Last Friday Art Walks are going to help downtown Maryville. “I really think this is great. Everybody likes to look at pretty things. What better way than to go to a beautiful downtown area? Maryville has such a great variety of artists and people downtown,” she said.
The art walks will give FAB an opportunity to bring attention to programs the group spearheads, said president Kim Slater. One such program, ArtReach, works with at-risk youth and teaches workshops in art education and art appreciation at Everett Learning Opportunity Center, Slater said. “We do an actual art project that they do from start to finish. It takes two to three hours and they have the satisfaction of finishing a project the same day.”
The group also helps with outside the classroom. “Painter and sculptor Carol Smith has also done work with stroke patients at Blount Memorial Hospital,” Slater said.
Slater said she hoped the Last Friday Art Walks play a major role in the continuing revitalization of downtown. “I think it will increase traffic and interest and get people down there after hours,” she said. “Once they’re down there, they’ll stay to eat and shop and see the many things downtown has to offer.”
FAB is in a growing phase, and Slater said Last Friday will give them good exposure in the community. “It could let the community know what we’re all about,” she said. “We have a lot to offer, such as workshops and events, and we have a lot of talented artists. We are here to increase awareness of the fine arts in our community.”
The art walk will include a wide variety of art work and artist, Gamble said, including painters, photographers, a wood-turner, stained glass artists, music, dance and other performing arts.
“I have one graduate student from Maryville College who is going to be building an outside installation sculpture. He is going to be building this big sculpture out of ‘found’ objects. It’s a mountain of a thing you can walk around and observe, and it’s freestanding - no glue.
“There will be live music, sculpture, photography. Hopefully, we’ll get poetry reading and dance,” she said. “Amy Moore Morton has agreed to open her studio for people to observe the dancers practicing at Van Metre School of Dance, home of Appalachian Ballet Co.”
The East Broadway entrance to Preservation Plaza also will be open for artists interested in having a small venue, and it will be available for people wanting to perform or display work, Gamble said.
All that is needed now, said Gamble, are the crowds. “Come down and experience it. You’re not going to know ‘What Happened Last Friday’ unless you come,” she said.