Story & Photos by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
The inaugural First Fridays Art Walk brought scores of people to downtown Warrensburg, Mo. last Friday. With 16 venues and more than 35 local artists and musicians, the event was setup on a loop from Old Barney’s on Hout Street, down North Holden Street and then turning onto West Pine Street and ending at Willow Tree.
People meandered around the area, stopping in shops and checking out vendors. Music echoed throughout downtown, with local musicians bearing acoustic guitars and setting up amps on street corners, a big shift from the rhythmic droning that typically echoes later at night.
Overall, the event had a positive reception. Organizer Jay Linhardt said most people seemed in awe of the scope of the event.
“There was a lot going on, and I was very pleased to see that everyone was moving from place to place trying to catch as many of the artists and musicians as possible,” he said. “We were very happy with the turn out, being it’s only our first one. I think the Arts Collective really impressed everyone with the amount of art and music they provided and the organization to pull it off in such a big way. I heard the phrase ‘This is just awesome!’ more than I could count.”
For the artists and musicians, the event gives a breath of fresh air in terms of a venue to display their wares. Outside of the Gann Gallery and The Bay, there aren’t many venues in the Warrensburg area for artists, especially at different levels of mastery, to display their wares.
“Everyone seemed thrilled just to be a part of it,” Linhardt said. “Many of the artists, especially the students, expressed such gratitude for having a space to share their works with the community, and mentioned how many new connections they made with their peers. Those are two of the main purposes for doing this. If your life revolves around art and music like it does for many of our participants, this event is what it’s all about. There were big smiles everywhere and lots of hugging going on by the end of the evening.”
Linhardt said he heard good things from local businesses as well, which experienced increased traffic during the event. He said there are 20 businesses already committed for May.
The event itself not only displayed to the community that there are a huge number of local artists, but also that the event was possible.
“Giving exposure to the downtown art culture is of course a top priority of the Arts Collective and I think we made our introduction to the community in a very big way,” Linhardt said. “We’re just getting started.
“For me personally, hearing the participants say are they now inspired on a new level to create and to put their works out there told me we are on the right path with this event,” he continued. “Those are the results I’m looking for.”
Linhardt said there was more organizers wanted to do but there simply wasn’t enough time between announcing the Art Walk and the date of the event. He said there are plans to implement the additions for May.
For many involved, the first Art Walk was a way to test the waters. Linhardt noted there were around 80 people involved and that when uncontrollable changes popped up those involved adapted well. The concept will be the same for next month’s show, but bigger and with new participants.
“We plan to also include some different creative arts, such as a venue specifically focusing on writing, poetry and prose,” Linhardt said. “There will also be much more interactive events, like the children’s art exhibit we had at Fabulously Eco this month.”
One of the biggest parts of the Art Walk was the inclusion of business owners, Warrensburg Main Street, and the community of downtown Warrensburg. Linhardt acknowledged he wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without help from everyone to bring the event together.
“I just want to thank everyone who has helped out so far, and all the people in the community who have given endless encouragement to tackle this project,” he said. “I’ve been blown away by all of the support we’ve had, and that is all the inspiration we need to get out there and make this the best event it can be.”
The next First Fridays Art Walk will be May 5 at 6 p.m. in downtown Warrensburg. The Warrensburg Arts Collective will have an open meeting April 12 at 7 p.m. at The Bay in Warrensburg. For more, follow Warrensburg First Fridays Art Walk on Facebook here.