People of all ages spilled out of Kesey Square into the streets of downtown Eugene on July 5. A balloon animal artist crafted balloons into different shapes, a performer spun plates atop a long stick and artists painted and drew pictures live while people strolled through.
“Art is for everybody,” said Liora Sponko, Executive Director of Lane Arts Council.
On the first Friday of each month, Lane Arts Council and the City of Eugene throw the event that’s been running for more than two decades. There is a guided tour that participants can choose to follow, where organizers explain all the features and answer questions. People can also wander at their own pace, milling around the streets of downtown with a corresponding map of all the venues and sights.
“We believe arts and culture is the best way to bring people together and build community,” Sponko said, detailing the importance of making art accessible to all. The event is free, complete with live music and the opportunity to view local art.
Over the eight years Sponko has worked for Lane Arts Council organizing this event, she’s seen it fluctuate in attendance. The ArtWalk is only becoming stronger and more accessible to a wider audience, she said.
“I’m seeing a lot more people attending the ArtWalk, and different ages, different demographics — it’s really becoming a true community event,” Sponko said. In 2018, 1,145 artists and 60 arts venues participated in the event over the course of a year.
Every First Friday features five different attractions on the guided tour. This year’s features included the Design Arts Apprenticeship Showcase, which had arts and products designed by students through Lane Arts Council’s design apprenticeship program. New murals and art installations by artists Valentina Gonzales, Santiago Uceda and Julie Anderson were available for people to check out on the tour as well.
But visual art is not the only featured medium of the ArtWalk. Each month, a different musical artist is featured at First Friday. This time, local group Sara B3 & 45 RPM Soul Revue took the stage on the corner of Kesey Square. Paying tribute to funk and soul artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s, they had the whole crowd dancing. High-energy throwbacks enticed passersby to move closer to the music and engage with the event.
Dance is another arts medium participants can experience. Oregon Contemporary Theatre hosted Instaballet, which provides the opportunity for people to choreograph dances with professional dancers. It breaks down the wall between dancer and audience, allowing for participants to get firsthand experience dancing with professionals.
In the future, Liora Sponko hopes to make the event even larger, blocking off the streets to create more of a festival feel. She and Lane Arts Council “look forward to growing ArtWalk as an evolving platform for creative possibilities and a uniquely accessible venue for arts experiences of all kinds.”
The next First Friday will be on August 2 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. For more information on First Friday and Lane Arts Council, visit lanearts.org.