Friday, July 07, 2006

First Friday: Critical mass, doldrums.

What is it about gallery owners that makes them want to schedule their openings on the same day as every other gallery in town? I can understand, and even enjoy, the idea of a First Friday- where all the galleries and other businesses along a certain street or in a specific neighborhood have extended hours or events. But why are these all planned for the same day of the month?

Tonight there is a gallery crawl downtown. There are 16 venues participating as part of "All-Star Week". Unblurred, a Penn avenue corridor tradition, is also happening tonight with their 13 venues listed. At least three galleries in Shadyside are unveiling their stuff for their own little swank version of First Friday. In addition there is an open house for the grand opening of a Vitamin Emporium!! There are "art parties" with music at the Warhol in the North Side, the Brillo Box in Bloomfield, and at AIR (Artists Image Resource). At the Frick they have their installment in the First Friday concert series. Finally... Oakland, Mt. Lebanon, Bellevue, and West End are hosting isolated gallery openings.

It's taken me 45 minutes just to comb through the events I've mentioned. Who wants to spend their entire lunch hour sifting through this? Choices have to be made. Routes need to be charted. Itineraries must be constructed with Excel-generated charts displaying priority pie-charts. Whose benefit is this madness serving?

Sure, if you just happen to arrive on this single day of the month, it will make Pittsburgh look as happening as NYC. Site seers have options. And the benefit for them is that they will have no idea what all else they will be inevitably missing. For there is no possible way all of this stuff can be seen by any single individual. If you want to see several of thes events, forget substance. You have about as much time as it will take you to throw down that free glass of box wine, and then it's off to the next neighborhood. There will be plenty of meaningful and critical conversations tonight... at the checkpoints and pullovers where our local law enforcement representatives will find out our grand plans for seeing everything in four hours. But yeah... you have choices.

Subsequently, the rest of the month will be bone dry for the art scene. There will be no one in the galleries, and no one strolling the cultural district. Once again, I ask- whose purpose does this serve?


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