The Collegian
Thursday, July 16, 2020

First Fridays breathes new life to city

On the summery night of April 2, First Fridays East connected First Fridays Art Walk to Richmond's eastern corridor and drew in an even larger crowd than last month, including President Edward Ayers.

The event comprised four venues — the University of Richmond Downtown, the Library of Virginia, St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Richmond CenterStage — each within walking distance, which allowed guests to transition smoothly throughout the night.

UR Downtown had an upbeat environment that kept guests dancing and entertained throughout the evening. The "Surface Tension: Pattern, Texture and Rhythm" collection was on display and featured artwork from Richmond students and three local elementary schools: Overby-Sheppard, G.W. Carver and William H. Fox. Junior Natalia Virani, a UR Downtown student coordinator, provided a craft demonstration that allowed children to work with elements of texture by layering patterns.

Elizabeth Sheehan, director of Partner in the Arts, said she thought it was important to incorporate art into core and nonconventional courses, so that art is omnipresent in schools regardless of funding for specific art programs. Partner in the Arts is a K-12 arts-integration program in the School of Continuing Studies.

First Fridays East came together through cross-discipline collaboration between Judy Mejia, program manager for Richmond Families Initiative in the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, Liz Riggs, UR Downtown coordinator and Sheehan. Mejia, Riggs, and Sheehan worked to ensure that First Fridays East featured the talent at the university. Student and staff musicians performed, student volunteers acted as teachers and UR Catering provided refreshments.

The university's Bossa Nova and Samba Ensemble opened the night and filled UR Downtown with the upbeat rhythms of traditional Brazilian tunes. Professor Kevin Harding, director of the University Jazz Ensemble & Jazz Combo, prefaced each song with context so listeners could gain insights into Brazilian culture. The Octaves, Richmond's all-male a capella group, topped off the night as they mixed their falsettos with catchy tunes, such as, Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." and Guster's "Amsterdam."

The other First Fridays East venues also featured a different kind of entertainment. The Library of Virginia had craft demonstrations by local artists ranging from multimedia collages to glass design. All finished works were on display in the lobby and guests were able to sample a variety of local foods. "The Land We Live In, The Land We Left: Virginia's People," a documentary based on the lives of immigrants, played in the exhibition gallery and lobby.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church embodied the coming of spring with beautiful flower gardens. The church had an opening reception, tours, mosaic replicas of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and stained-glass windows.

Richmond CenterStage housed the work of Henrico County public school students and featured music from various local groups: the Richmond Youth Jazz Guild Small and Large Ensembles and the Richmond Jazz Composers Alliance Quintet. Hundreds of guests were in attendance, as they sat listening to classic jazz and viewed artwork from a wide variety of media. A cash bar and light hors d'oeuvres were provided.

The last First Fridays East of the season will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, May 7. For more information, see

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