On the first Friday of every month, thousands of people of all ages gather on the closed streets of Roosevelt Row. People who walk very different walks during the day, share the same dance on this night. There’s a man with a violin on the corner, and just a few feet down an elementary boy drumming away. Conex boxes turn into miniature temporary museums to display local art. It’s a full crowd- peaceful protesters, loud protesters, little kids high on their parents shoulders for the best seat in the house.
The Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation is a non-profit organization with efforts into preservation of our cultural art. The board is full of a dedicated team who are constantly furthering individual creativity in our metropolitan area. They believe in creating a sustainable, walk-able urban community; full of murals, small businesses, and opportunity for people to connect through the arts.
This project is the heart of a future of investing in our own self exploration and connection around us. Our art district in Phoenix is expanding and evolving on a large scale, with 100,000 new visitors each year. I have only witnessed personally the last 10 years of growth, but others say it has come a long way.
During the 1970’s, the core of downtown was rezoned and construction was booming. Despite this, the neighborhood began to decline. It wasn’t until the late 90’s when things started to turn around for the core of our city blocks. Artists were attracted to the abandoned spaces, as they were cheap and screamed a begging for improvement. Crime rates dropped fast as new people ventured in to explore the cultural excitement. Art plays a leading role in the revitalization of the area we now love and appreciate.
Though I’d like to believe I am rather spontaneous, sometimes I am a total creature of habit. On the first Friday of almost every month, I begin on 5th Street just off of Roosevelt. 5th Street is home to several local businesses like, Buds Glass Joint, a smoke shop, The Lost Leaf, a spot for tea, and several more. Road closures have made way for booths and food trucks covering the grounds.
There is a food truck owned and operated by an older Argentinian couple, who are just the kindest people. They sell the best beef empanadas, and to be honest, I have no idea what else. I let the grease drip down my chin and usually just walk and eat, there is too much to see and do.
You can buy just about any handmade gift or gadget you can think of, or never have! Under tents sold by their makers, you’ll find crystal jewelry, tye-dye clothing, to lamps crafted from old fans and cameras. The first time I attended was in October of 2015. There were somewhere around 25 different booths, and October sure is the time. The weather is crisp but couldn’t be better, and a lot of people are in the full Halloween swing! Under the moon you’ll see costumes, characters, and performers on stilts. There are painters and preachers, a true display of the melting pot we are apart of. The most recent first Friday that I attended, January of 2020, there were over 100 exhibitors.
A year or so back, my fiance and I took our time walking up and down the streets, speaking to artists about their craft and life’s work. We came upon a man who made clay sculpture creatures, or “monsters” as he called them. He had done work for several movies in Hollywood, created claymation videos, and spent hours upon hours on each piece. The detail was phenomenal, and he really charged nothing for the time and sweat you could visibly see in these small clay faces. Being that it was near Christmas time and this was for the personal collection, we decided we would get one the following month. We have looked for him every single time since. I have spent hours trying to locate him online. Lesson learned, buy it if it’s for the art!
First Friday has become a hub for galleries, restaurants, and shops to flaunt! Just about every business and resident around participates in the fun. On these Fridays from 6-10 pm PHX Art museum is free to the public with voluntary donation admission. They are also a trolley stop, as ArtLink provides free trolleys to and from several locations during the event. Street parking can be hard to find, but there are parking garages surrounding the area for around $1.75. If you miss the first Friday event, the third Friday of every month is one to check out too. Here is a map and guide to what is going on and where on Fridays in Phoenix. Hope to see you in the streets!