Wichita Galleries Gear Up For Their First First Fridays

Sep 6, 2019

After more than two decades of Final Fridays, many galleries and venues around Wichita are making the switch today to First Fridays.

It’s a move that that some local gallery owners and artists have pushed for for years, largely as a way to boost sales during the end of the year when Final Friday butted up against major holidays.

“I think there’s been this sort of this groundswell, this percolation of just dislike of Final Friday because people weren’t coming out and they weren’t buying art,” says Thomas Dalton, a board member for the Arts Council in Wichita.

“It finally sort of exposed itself this year to really get a good, strong effort into First Fridays.”

Joanna Ramondetta is an artist with Gallery 12.
Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Gallery 12 in downtown Wichita held its last Final Friday in July and is preparing to open two new shows at its inaugural First Friday event this week.

Artist Joanna Ramondetta says the gallery was “a little hesitant” to make the switch.

“[Final Friday] had been going on for so long, it’s an institution,” she says. “We were just a little bit scared to shake it up.”

Ramondetta says the 40-year-old gallery would see as many as 1,000 people each night during the Final Friday art crawl.

“As with most galleries, most of our sales happen on our opening nights,” Ramondetta says. “So whether that’s First Friday or Final Friday, whichever Friday it is, we depend on those nights for a lot of our business.”

She’s hopeful regulars will keep coming to the gallery – just on a different night.

“As long as everybody keeps coming in and there’s just a smooth transition, then we’ll look at that as a success.”

There’s no formal organization behind the city’s monthly art crawl, so galleries can still choose to hold events on the last Friday of the month.

Harvester Arts is moving to First Friday, but, as co-founder Kristin Beal notes, Harvester’s programs aren’t based in arts sales.

“The change really has little to no effect on us,” she says.

Beal says galleries holding their monthly events on different nights — Final or First Friday — “may confuse audiences for a while, but I think each organization needs to take on the responsibility of communicating effectively with their audience and getting people out there."

“All in all, these are growing pains for a city,” she says. “I think our arts community is growing, and this is symptomatic of that.”