A new group is in charge of downtown Augusta’s monthly First Friday arts festival, and changes are promised to bring new life to the event.
The Greater Augusta Arts Council handed over First Friday to Artists’ Row, a nonprofit group of seven art galleries - mostly on Broad Street. Artists’ Row begins its reign over the arts event, which has been managed by several other groups in its history, on Sept. 5.
“We are the nonprofit right in the middle of (First Friday). It just made sense that we handle it,” said Syd Padgett, owner of OddFellows Art Gallery and president of Artists’ Row.
The arts council has managed First Friday and provided volunteers since January 2005, according to a news release.
First Friday began in 1994 – one year after Artists’ Row was created by former Mayor Charles DeVaney – to attract people downtown and help tie Broad Street and Riverwalk together. Originally, the event began at noon in the central business district, and art galleries and merchants stayed open late.
The event grew to attract large numbers of people, and safety issues arose several times because of crowds that loitered until the early morning hours after First Friday activities were over.
When a Broad Street shooting injured six people after the event’s official hours concluded in July 2012, the arts council oversaw changes including stricter control of street vendors, improved cleanup efforts and increased security.
Artists’ Row plans to make changes to the event, keeping the focus on arts and creating a festival-like atmosphere, Padgett said. The group wants to add live art demonstrations inside art galleries, children’s activities and more sidewalk art vendors and street performers.
“It’s gotten static. We are using this as an opportunity to come back and breathe some new life into it,” he said.
The hours of First Friday will remain 5-9 p.m. Vendors will be shut down at 9 p.m.
Vendors seeking to reserve a street intersection must receive a permit from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. Artists and nonprofits that want to set up a table on the sidewalk must be setup in front of a business that is open and operating for the entirety of First Friday, and the business must grant permission to the vendor.
For more information or to apply for a vendor space, e-mail Padgett at firstname.lastname@example.org.