It takes a lot of faith and belief in something to want to envision its future, to spend your time tending to it, nurturing it and witnessing its growth. There’s also much to be said for determination, hard work and consistency. Something caught the eye of Downtown Greensboro Inc. as well as the United Arts Council a few years back. Perhaps DGI and UAC saw the sincerity and persistent efforts being put forth by Greensboro’s creative community and other small businesses and wanted to lend a hand. Now with their help, leadership, collectiveness, funding and care, Greensboro and its sense of community are growing and thriving.
Much thanks goes to these two organizations for choosing to strongly advocate the arts, and very specifically, their promotion of Greensboro’s monthly First Friday events that are free and open to the public, come rain or shine, hot or cold. Among other things, the funding and advertising that they’ve provided for the year-round monthly events have made such a difference. The word has spread further out there, and more people have found their way into Downtown Greensboro on First Friday evenings. Families and friends are enjoying the huge variety of entertainment in some very traditional as well as very creative environments. People love the idea that they can come out again the very next month and do or see something else that’s fun, creative and inspiring.
Perhaps it was the already-budding layers of creativity and community that was forming and becoming more visible in the earlier years that the folks at DGI and UAC saw and wanted to further nurture on a larger scale. First Fridays started over a decade ago. In its early years it was called by different names, promoted by different people and organizations and artists, and it even fell on different days. It started out as a gallery’s monthly art exhibition and wine tasting, then quickly spread to other local galleries and their monthly activities. It is now something much larger and holistic, combining various types of businesses, restaurants, salons, retail shops and other venues that are showcasing various types of artistic formats — including visual, musical and theatrical — and on a consistent monthly basis on the first Friday of every month.
Now, thanks to the combined efforts of DGI and UAC there is an actual sense of leadership and cohesion. With their advocacy and promotions, DGI and UAC have taken away the disparity and disconnectedness between so many different artists and artistic spaces. They have helped to connect as well as reinforce an even stronger sense of unity within our city, even more specifically downtown. With their help of cultural guidance, DGI and the UAC have brought together a wide spectrum of individuals and institutions. They’ve helped to give a more formal recognition to the arts and demonstrated to others that there is value in the local creative class and in small businesses. They’ve proven the many ways in which the arts and events like First Friday contribute to the overall growth of our community on many levels. Their promotion of a self-sustaining economy can be witnessed as the public is entertained locally, shop and dine locally, bring in new businesses and residents, increase tourism and contribute to the overall economic growth.
Today, one can see the difference DGI/UAC is capable of making with their time, attention, organization and enhancement. It’s amazing to look back and consider all of this energy and reoccurring power and sustenance coming from one little thought that took root over a decade ago. DGI and UAC have come together to help provide the creative class and small businesses with a unified voice with which to say to the general public that there is an open invitation to all to come gather on common ground and celebrate each other. First Fridays in Downtown Greensboro are educational and entertaining, and among the many other benefits, First Fridays encourage higher aesthetics and a better quality of life for us all.
Charlotte Ström is a working artist in Greensboro. She owns Ström Art with her husband, artist Erilk Ström.