Taking over the ocean-side galleries of Miami and the urban lofts of New York, art walks are expanding in cultural hot spots across the country. Quirky incarnations like Brewery Art Walk in Los Angeles and Walktober Weird Art Walk in Portland, Ore., are also gaining attention in cities large and small. The type of work varies as much as the locales, where established masters mingle with up-and-comers. In many places, local wineries, restaurants and specialty boutiques join in the monthly celebrations by staying open late, offering food and drink, and adding to the overall effect of a community united by art.
Downtown Art Walk
Held the second Thursday of every month from 6-10 p.m., the downtown event includes 50 participating galleries. Located predominantly on Spring and Main streets between Fourth and Seventh streets, the art walk—which started in 2004—attracts upward of 25,000 monthly guests.
The Hive Gallery, an active member for the past decade, is also one of the oldest standing galleries on the row. Specializing in lowbrow or pop surrealism illustrations and paintings, The Hive also rents out studio space to resident artists and groups like Artrates Agency, a collective that features different Japanese artists on a revolving monthly schedule.
Nathan Cartwright, artist and owner of The Hive, describes the downtown atmosphere as a “celebratory, community vibe” known for attracting visitors from all over the world.
Don’t miss the Spring Arts Tower, which houses a gallery, arts collective, bookstore and ad agency. Here, visitors can peruse the cross-disciplinary CB1 Gallery, studio/gallery retail shops like Robin McGeough’s Dove Biscuit Studios or Liz Huston’s Art and Curiosities, and the anchor of the tower: The Last Bookstore. As if you needed an added incentive to visit, fashion shows and poetry readings are not uncommon.
New York City
Boasting hundreds of galleries across the five boroughs, New York City is arguably the art capital of the country. However, the city proper lacks a free monthly event. For a true art walk experience, hop on a ferry to Staten Island for Second Saturday, a grassroots operation that started in 2010.
Second Saturday takes place across the island’s north shore, with approximately 10 core venues (the number changes from month to month) and additional pop-up spaces. Artwork ranges from traditional, formalist expression to more transgressive, underground art. One of the staples of the walk, for instance, is Day de Dada, a spontaneous and experimental performance art group.
“Stapleton has a super-cool Artist Market where visitors can buy local art after a brief and scenic walk from the Staten Island Railroad,” says Melissa West, organizing director for Second Saturday. “There’s also MakerSpace, which has workshops in all sorts of disciplines including sewing, welding and making electronic instruments.”
On Bay Street, one of the main stretches of the walk, Every Thing Goes Book Cafe offers fair trade snacks, teas and coffee, live performances and an array of used books and records. In Livingston, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is an 83-acre park-like campus housing several gallery spaces including Art Lab, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Staten Island Museum and the Noble Maritime Collection. Around the corner, the Creative Photographers’ Guild Gallery hosts monthly photography installations. On the return trip back to the city, make one last stop at the Staten Island Arts’ Culture Lounge, a gallery and market located in the St. George ferry terminal.
Second Saturday Art Walk
Thanks to the popularity of Art Basel over the past decade and the renaissance of all things creative throughout the city, Miami has easily become the spot to view, discuss and enjoy modern and contemporary fine art. On Second Saturday Art Walk, roughly 60 galleries in the Wynwood Arts District throw open their doors for the inevitable droves from 6-10 p.m.
“The vibe is overwhelmingly positive,” says Patrick Walsh, executive director of the Wynwood Arts District Association (WADA). “There’s always an element of surprise since there are new gallery openings, installations and productions each month—not to mention all the new businesses opening in the neighborhood.”
For the most part, Wynwood galleries exhibit a range of works from pieces by local emerging artists to well-established blue chip collections. The street art represents talent from around the world and changes regularly, most drastically each year before and during Art Basel, the first week of December. The Wynwood Walls, abandoned warehouses on Northwest Second Avenue between 25th and 26th streets, has featured the work of more than 50 artists from 16 countries since its inception in 2009 to transform the district.
Given the sheer number of galleries and innovative spaces in this area’s art walk, it’s a good idea to plan ahead when participating in Second Saturday. Walsh’s personal favorites include Gallery Diet, Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art and Robert Fontaine Gallery. Other must-sees are The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse and the Rubell Family Collection, which both feature contemporary art.
Spanning several contiguous blocks, the Chicago Arts District is somewhat of a newbie in the national art scene. The district was established in 2002 by the third generation of the Podmajersky family, which first settled in the East Pilsen neighborhood in 1914 and ran a successful dairy before buying up property that housed and employed many immigrants.
Sandra Zhong, marketing and administrative assistant for the Chicago Arts District, suggests guests streamline their experience by starting at the information center, where friendly staff members hand out maps and answer questions to help visitors navigate through the self-guided art walk.
Centered around South Halsted and West 18th streets, Second Fridays now showcases 30-plus creative spaces in a posh nucleus of galleries, lofts and studios from 6-10 p.m.
This particular walk provides an up-close look at the artwork. Open houses allow the public to mingle in the intimacy of the artists’ own studios and homes, while organized discussions are both educational and enlightening, often offering an inside glimpse of the inspiration and creative process behind the artists’ pieces. Community favorites include Bryan Sperry Studio, Artpentry, Studio Oh! and NYCH Gallery.
First Friday Art Walk
First Friday Art Walk in Fredericksburg—a little over an hour outside Austin city limits—consists of 14 galleries open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., the majority of which are located on Main Street between Orange and Washington streets. With each gallery serving local food and vino from nearby award-winning wineries Becker Vineyards, Grape Creek Vineyards and Torre de Pietra, Fredericksburg offers something that most art walks do not: a full day of visual and physical sustenance.
“A stroll through the streets of our very Norman Rockwell-esque town is always beautiful, and art walk evenings are no different,” says Elizabeth Harris, gallery associate and special events coordinator at InSight Gallery. “Drifts of live music and conversations pour out of gallery doors up and down Main Street until at least 8 p.m., but often later, as the doors are open until the last patron leaves.”
Long referred to as an antiquing town with strong German heritage, Fredericksburg has only recently established itself as a hotbed of fine art. With roughly 1.5 million visitors each year, “this little jewel of a town,” as Harris calls it, is definitely putting itself on the map.
—Written by Jennifer Pappas Yennie