First Fridays art walk cancelled for tonight; future remains uncertain

If you were planning on enjoying the 80-degree weather by strolling through the First Fridays art walk tonight, you might want to rethink your plans. Although not an unprecedented cancellation, the future of First Fridays is still tenuous.

There will be no art tonight. That’s not to say that the city of Richmond has implemented a moratorium on artistic displays. It certainly hasn’t. However, the First Fridays Art Walk, a city tradition for the last ten years, will not take place.

“As in years past, we’ve decided to take September 2nd off since the next art walk will fall on a holiday weekend,” writes Christina Newton, founder and Director of Curated Culture, the organizing body that produces the art walk. “Slower summer months offer the businesses and organizations time to take much deserved vacations and tend to the necessary annual building repair work that the galleries require.”

Ms. Newton, however, is certainly cognizant of another, more pressing reason for forgoing this month’s art walk. Crime. “A break also seemed practical in light of the fact that we have seen an increase in crime in the area after First Fridays’ hours.”

The crime to which she refers stems from a noticeable increase in teenaged attendees. Although difficult to discern the specific cause for the unanticipated surge of juveniles (mostly black teenagers), and the crime issues that have resulted, it’s thought that a salon and barbershop along the Broad Street stretch that hosts the art walk sponsored Battle of the DJs competitions. It’s assumed that, once word got out about First Fridays being a desirable environment for teens, teens from over the Richmond metropolitan area converged on the traditionally quaint event. The large size of the juvenile crowds increased the presence of Richmond Police.

Many people had ideas to remedy the events that seemed to be overburdening the artistic sensibilities that organizers created First Fridays to showcase. RVANews created a public forum in which people could offer suggestions as to how to alter the First Fridays events so that they either evolve in an accommodating way for the surfeit of teens or reinstate the original, more peaceful theme. Christina Newton has publicly acknowledged the public investment in the matter. “The outpouring of community support has been overwhelming and appreciated.”

Some maintain that by temporarily suspending the event this month, future First Fridays will not have the same omnipresence of teens as in previous months. There is, however, the possibility that teens will congregate along Broad Street despite a formal cancellation of the First Fridays event. If these crowds persist in the coming months, Christina Newton has not ruled-out the possibility of discontinuing First Fridays altogether. It is, however, currently expected that First Fridays will resume on October 7.

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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