Emily Bibb, the curator of the Paul R. Jones Museum, said remaining open past regular hours is a huge benefit to the viewership.
“As a gallery, we’re regularly only open 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., so if people work or are in school those aren’t always hours that they can come,” said Bibb. “I think that [First Friday] exposes more people to art which is definitely a benefit.”
The Art Walk has been a Tuscaloosa tradition since 2003. In 2013, it was renamed “First Friday” as part of a rebranding effort.
“It brings the art community and the artists together and gives people the opportunity to pursue art,” said Kevin Ledgewood, the publicity representative for the Arts and Humanities Council of Tuscaloosa County.
The art that viewers are exposed to shifts periodically. The displays available depend upon the artists being featured, and the rotation of exhibits is based on space availability and season.
During the March Art Walk, the Paul R. Jones Museum held a special opening event for the Beverly Buchanan: Habitat for Humanity exhibit. The exhibition, guest-curated by Paul Barrett, will run in the gallery for about two months, according to the University of Alabama Events website.
Many of the exhibitions, like the Beverly Buchanan showcase, are connected to UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, many students aren’t aware that First Friday even exists in Tuscaloosa.
“I think that students would want something to do other than going out,” said Hannah Gough, another UA senior. “If I wanted to do something fun and I knew that this was big, I’d be here all the time.”
Bibb said events like Live at the Plaza, a concert series held in the Government Plaza during the summer months, attract a more diverse audience to the exhibits, spurring further viewership of the galleries and potential First Friday growth. In fact, since the Art Walk’s start in 2003, Tuscaloosa’s galleries have seen a consistency in booking.
“We’re booked through next year, but galleries don’t really grow; it’s more about serving the community,” said Ledgewood. “It’s a matter of how anxious people are to have their work displayed in the galleries.”
With continued consistent booking, Ledgewood said that there are currently no plans to expand First Friday programming, but that the Arts and Humanities Council will continue to support special receptions and events amongst the Tuscaloosa galleries.