Monthly festival draws local talent, audiences
Boutiques, gallery spaces and other Main Street businesses opened their doors to celebrate First Thursday, an art crawl held once a month, which features local artists and performers.
The event started as a marketing technique three years ago by Mark Plessinger, owner of Frame of Mind, an eyewear boutique.
"We consider our eyewear art, and that bleeds out into the way we appreciate art," Plessinger said.
He wanted to draw more customers into his shop, and initially, the event was a collaborative effort between Plessinger and local artists called Fourth Thursday — held the fourth Thursday of every month.
Eventually Fourth Thursday changed to First, and other businesses such as the White Mule and Gotham Bagel joined in.
One of the many events of the crawl, a fundraising event called "The Busking Project," was hosted in Gotham Bagel Cafe building. The project featured breakdancers, hula-hoopers and others, dancing to the tribal-like sounds conjured up by Next Door Drummers. According to its website, The Busking
Project hopes to raise money for an international trip to "film, interview and document street performers."
First Thursday was a main reason the first floor of the Tapp's Building, which was formerly unused, reopened. Local artists like Amanda Ladymon, Keith Tolen and Kara Gunter all had installations in the windows of the Tapp's Arts Center and displays inside of the two-floor space alongside a myriad of other pieces.
The Anastasia & Friends gallery hosted a group exhibition entitled "Love: A Fair," which showed a variety of artists' takes on love, no matter how risque. Plessinger's Frame of Mind store showcased Molly Harrell's photography, entitled "Columbia's 100: give or take a few," featuring works from local individuals like Garnet & Black magazine's Martha Susan.
In the past the event brought around 400 people to the 1600 block of Main Street.
The owner of S & S Art Supply, Eric Stockard, saw the potential in First Thursday. Stockard is the grandson of a bronze sculptor, and he moved to South Carolina after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in New Orleans.
Stockard first opened S & S on Rosewood Drive and shared a building with the Gamecock Stop. As things began to dry up on Rosewood, Stockard started to attend First Thursdays and found himself able to network with a lot of artists. But he found that he "had a hard time getting them to go three miles up the hill to go to my art store," so he relocated to Main Street.
Allison Broome, a second-year graduate student, used S & S to display a collection of abstract oil paintings and prints entitled "Anamnesis." The theme was a personal one — memory loss. With a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Broome wondered "what is she seeing: clarity in some areas but not in others ... I'm trying to create a space where you can experience that," she said.
One day a month, these Main Street businesses have given artists like Broome a platform and have supplied Main Street with a new vitality.
"[The art community is] really small, and [we] realize we have to shout loud and make ourselves heard," Stockard said.