News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 23, 2009

The Arts Scene: First Friday in Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE — Since the establishment of the Arts Corridor along Seventh and Wabash, downtown Terre Haute has slowly but surely been becoming a Cinderella city of the Midwestern arts scene on “First Friday” nights.

For the occasion, artists from around the Wabash Valley, and in fact from around the world, open exhibits of their work for a month or more in the neighborhood’s four galleries, an artists’ emporium, and in the Swope Art Museum. Several hundred guests are now regularly turning out to see the new art on these remarkable nights.

The exhibits can be brilliant, wildly exuberant artistic displays of exciting figurative and abstract art, often richly colorful but occasionally black and white. Art is displayed in oil paintings on canvas, pastels-on-paper, charcoal drawings, sculptures, lithographs, photography, and more. Guests to the openings are treated to music and wine, beverages and hors d’oeuvres, the conversation of old friends, the opportunity to make new ones, and perhaps the inspiration to get more creative in their own right.

“First Fridays are better than a party,” said Denise Sobieski to her friend, Barbara Weber, while they were dining near the Arts Corridor with the big supper crowd Bella Rossa Market has during its extended hours for these special nights. “You don’t have to make invitations, cook, or clean up afterwards, and everybody always comes.”

The First Friday phenomenon did not begin in Terre Haute. For years, cities with art gallery neighborhoods have offered them to the public (some major metro areas with gallery districts attract thousands of First Friday visitors every month).

In the past, the Swope Art Museum sponsored First Friday activities, but they lapsed. Then four years ago when the Halcyon Gallery moved to Seventh and Ohio, it began having First Fridays as openings for its artists; at around the same time, the Swope resumed its Friday cultural offerings. Soon, Arts Illiana at 30 N. Sixth joined the First Friday scene, which was further enriched two years ago by the opening of the Gopalan Gallery near the Swope. The redevelopment of downtown Terre Haute and the addition to its skyline of the Hilton Garden Inn and Candlewood Suites has also drawn First Friday visitors into the Arts Corridor.

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