First Friday animates downtown


Art for sale on sidewalk during First Friday on September 2 in downtown Bakersfield.

Chrystal Fortt, Features Editor

Every first Friday of the month, on 19th and Eye Street, art, people, food and music take over downtown. Don Martin is the owner of Metro Galleries and is the creator of Bakersfield’s event First Friday.

“Basically, it’s an art related event, all the galleries are open and do their new exhibit opening every First Friday,” said Martin. “And then the shops and boutiques also are open late and do special events, sales, music, refreshments and things like that.”

Each business has something different to show every First Friday.

“We all show different types of work, and that’s the great thing. You’re not going to see the same thing. Every gallery is different. Some focus on photography, some focus purely on local artists,” said Martin.

There is also the Art Walk where artists set up stands along the streets to show and sell their work.

Loren John Presley is an artist and author who is a part of the Art Walk.

“It’s a lot of fun, you meet a lot of people and see a lot of cool stuff,” said Presley. “You’re surrounded by creativity, and you’re a part of it all. You participate, and people come see your stuff and show admiration.”

“I would’ve figured that just because it’s an arts type of thing that we wouldn’t get that many people, but we really do have a great arts community,” said Martin.

First Friday has surpassed the success that Martin had expected when it was first started.

“I probably got about 35 people [when it first started], I was happy with 35 people on our Friday night, and the next month it was 40 and it took about a year and then we were getting a couple hundred,” said Martin.

Bakersfield’s art event has grown tremendously in the last three years with about 3,000 to 4,000 people that come to every First Friday.

With that many people in the streets, people will often assume that First Friday is a street fair.

Martin emphasizes that First Friday is not a street fair; it’s an art event that promotes the downtown arts district and also the local businesses in the area.

“It’s really to encourage people to get into the businesses,” said Martin. “If I have somebody out there selling hot dogs or sandwichs or whatever, they’re competing with all the restaurants we have downtown.”

To make First Friday more about the locals, they need more local people to come to the event. Martin has been trying to bring people from other sides of town to really help revive downtown.

“It’s just trying to blend all of [the local businesses] together and let people know that we really do have a revitalizing downtown,” said Martin.

Martin welcomes any age and anyone who wants to get out of the house and enjoy entertainment.

“I know a couple and they have two little boys, they walk around on First Friday, they get them an ice cream, they come in, show them the art, the little shops, maybe buy some things, maybe have dinner, maybe not,” said Martin. “They take the kids home and then come back out and have dinner as a couple and go to Fishlips and hear a band, or go to the Padre and see some music.”