Once a month, residents turn out for city-wide gallery openings featuring work by local artists in watercolor, acrylic, oil, sculpture, pen and ink, photography, and mixed media. The art scene in Fairbanks is rich relative to the city’s size, and at no point does it shine through more vividly than on First Fridays.
This monthly tradition was started by a handful of gallery owners, and has since expanded to dozens of venues from coffee shops to theatre spaces, and restaurants to retail stores. One-time exhibits constantly pop up in new venues, while the “regulars” host an exhibit every month. Typically, a First Friday show runs from 5PM-8PM, though this can vary slightly.
Artists hang their shows for a full month and receive most or all of the proceeds from any sales. Some galleries collect a commission, but most do not. Entry to all shows is free and open to the public. Artists almost always attend their First Friday openings, and make it a point to be accessible to patrons. They also provide a variety of products and price points for customers by offering postcards and prints as well as original pieces.
Free refreshments and drinks are often provided by the host venue. After the exhibits close, art enthusiasts frequently attend performances by the Fairbanks Concert Association or Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre, or stop into a nearby restaurant for a glass of wine and live music.
Many of the most popular First Friday stops are located within walking distance of one another in downtown Fairbanks, and include Alaska House Art Gallery, 2 Street Gallery, Arts Learning Center, Well Street Gallery, Phillips Studio & Gallery, If Only... a Fine Store, Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center and Fairbanks Community Museum. An up-to-date monthly schedule with special events and show openings is posted at fairbanksalaska.com and published in Latitude 65 of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.