Who Are We?
First Fridays Artswalk started out as a grassroots organization with support and mentorship provided by Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., the City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development, and the Berkshire Art Association. The success of the program required the group to look at a more structured approach to handling the day-to-day operations. Now operating as a volunteer-based committee under the leadership of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. in partnership with the City’s Office of Cultural Development, the group, divided into subcommittees, meets monthly to discuss the needs of the program while also offering support to the artists and participating venues.
How It All Started
It was a cool fall evening in late November of 2011. Mary McGinnis, owner of Mary’s Carrot Cake and a little art gallery named GALLERY 25, was featuring the opening of Joanie Palano Ciolfi, a talented designer turned visual artist who specializes in oils and acrylics. She had waited for her show for several months and her big day had come. Like so many artists in the Berkshires, she found very few locations available to showcase her work. The waiting list for GALLERY 25 was two years in the running so she had done all of her groundwork ahead of time. Family, friends, Facebook, postcards — it took a lot to finally reach her day in the sun. After Joanie’s show, a group, including Mary McGinnis, strolled across the street to the local barbershop to view the work of another talented friend, Scott Taylor. Scott had partnered with artist, Michael Cohen, to exhibit his work amid the barbershop chairs and the “gallery” feel about the place. The lighting was perfect in that large room and the hospitality second to none with Esther Bronte serving delicious beverages, cheese and crackers. There the stage was set. “Why not do this every first Friday of the month?!” Mary said. Another friend quickly replied, “This happens all the time in California where I lived. We called them ‘Gallery Crawls’.”
Well, it didn’t take long to get on the Internet and research what so many other downtowns in the country had already discovered marrying the merchants with the arts world. And what a happy marriage it would be!
First Fridays Artswalk was born on May 4, 2012 with the very first night of opening receptions at over 30 locations in downtown Pittsfield. Retailers, restaurants, galleries, banks, offices and more opened up areas within their business to host an artist for one entire month … until the next First Fridays Artswalk when another artist would be featured for one entire month … and so on, all year long. The media has fully embraced downtown Pittsfield’s First Fridays Artswalk. Each month you will find a story featured in many of the local publications, as well as, a recent feature story by Stephen Jermanok in the travel section of the Boston Globe. Even Berkshire Medical Center has embraced the program by not only creating gallery space in their lobby, but also showcasing artistic renderings of surgeons in the operating room in their advertising.