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.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. It was a quiet Friday night along Broad Street. Crowds were light but attentive and whatever was drawing crowds of unruly teens (and others), they didn’t show up in any numbers. It was reminiscent of First Friday’s past. Best of all there were no confrontations between teenagers and police to report on. Hopefully the spell has been broken.

  2. Cookie on said:

    The overwhelming police presence on Friday 9/2 was shocking and embarrassing. Two uniformed officers on each corner. Cars with lights flashing. It does not send a message of safety but seemed fearful and oppressive. It is a delicate balance but this was a giant failure.

  3. If teens are attending but seem unruly, perhaps it is indicative of their need for increased involvement in the event?

    Why are we afraid of teenagers, again?

  4. anonymous on said:

    I am not afraid of teenagers.

    But I am also not stupid enough to hang around a riot waiting to happen.

    I would like to see the art walk return to being an art walk, and not a big street festival.

  5. Stephen on said:

    “If you want a riot, put on your riot gear…”

    A safe environment, an overwhelming abundance of self-proclaimed authority monopolizing violence does not make.

  6. Interesting situation…more interesting that the author felt the need to point out that the teenagers were not white.

    Teenagers steal. More importantly, black teenagers steal.

    At least that’s what I “learned” from reading this piece of “journalism”.

  7. @Lee – indicating that most of the teenagers present during these past First Fridays events were black was merely describing an observable fact, and in no way served as a surreptitious charge of racism. Furthermore, the notion that “black teenagers steal” was not present, or even insinuated, in the article, at all.

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