Do it for the culture: How to help bring First Fridays to Newark
by Andaiye Taylor/March 4, 2017
“Arts and culture events are part of the infrastructure of a bustling city,” Isaiah Little told me over breakfast recently at Annabella’s Kitchen on Washington Street, near where some events for First Fridays, the new artwalk and street performance series whose Indiegogo campaign is live and seeking backers, will play out.
In addition to being a stalwart of Newark’s civic technology community, Little, founder of creative agency Gallery Retail, has hosted arts and culture events around town for a few years. They include the QuickCulture Meetup series, events meant to get local people socializing around arts and culture, which launched in 2014.
Now Gallery Retail, with the support of Newark Arts, is looking to bring locals face-to-face with the city’s art scene at a much larger scale. First Fridays, according to the description on its Indigogo campaign, will fill a need for the city’s artists, residents, visitors and businesses: “Newark needs to both activate the streets and properly present all its talents and offerings, regularly.”
As in other cities where First Fridays are held, the series is intended as an opportunity for people to take in local music, arts and culture downtown; enjoy and support local food and other vendors; meet each other; get to know local businesses, galleries and creative spaces and add additional energy to Newark streetscapes–in particular underutilized ones like Campbell Street, where a “graffiti alley” is planned in collaboration with Yendor Productions.
The events will include street performers, vendors, and art walks, and Little will make First Fridays as inclusive as possible for potential vendors by instituting low fees to participate.
Cambell Street, which connects Washington Street and University Avenue downtown, might soon become “graffiti alley.” Image: Google Maps
Little is intent on making First Fridays an authentic social and cultural experience–but also on carefully setting up and measuring success so the event works for everyone, from attendees to the vendors and artists who participate.
“We’re going to include feedback loops so we can know how the events are working for vendors, and so we can continue to help develop Newark’s cultural ecosystem and improve the event,” he told me. Those will mostly entail administering surveys that ask participating vendors about revenue outcomes the night of each event, and ask attendees questions about their demographics, including which zip codes they hail from.
To maximize what First Fridays can offer, Little is looking to raise $20,000 through a Newark First Fridays crowdfunding campaign to support event staffing, pay artists and workshop hosts, acquire equipment, pay for permits and security and market the event. Workshops currently being contemplated include a session on iPhone photography, and a mural workshop, inspired by Little’s recent trip to Portugal, where he saw people design and create a mural in real-time at a public event.
The crowdfunding campaign is live on Indiegogo and includes seven levels of perks, from a “Thank you” to private tours to stage naming rights and curator credits for top-dollar contributors.
Gallery Retail intends to produce the event no matter how much money the campaign raises–if the campaign falls well short of its goal, they will scale back portions of the event and, perhaps, host less of them as they plan for next year.
Still, the campaign emphasizes, “[A]s we all know, with more funds you can host a cooler party.” To make First Fridays a party that does the most justice to local arts and culture, visit their Indigogo page to contribute. In addition to backing First Fridays with their dollars, those interested in supporting the series can also volunteer, share the campaign, and follow First Fridays on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Andaiye is a Newark native, Newark resident, and the show runner at BrickCityLive.com. Andaiye holds a master's degree from Columbia Journalism School and was a fellow in the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY. She was the 2012 recipient of the Erik Lars-Nelson prize for excellence in reporting and writing. In addition to running Brick City, Andaiye is also head of content for Clover. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter @andaiye.
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