On the first Friday of every month, 20,000 people scour the streets of Oakland to participate in a unique event that plays host to art exhibits, performers, food trucks and numerous intriguing sights. First Friday has been a showcase for the city for the past seven years. It exemplifies the city’s every-growing identity that reflects a strong interest in the arts.
This impressive event is connected to an organization known as the Oakland Art Murmur, a “non-profit California public benefit corporation” that essentially relies on the efforts of volunteers and a part-time Executive Director to keep its operations running. The Art Murmur’s message is clear: “…to increase awareness of and participation in the visual arts in Oakland through collective marketing and public programming.” Those behind this movement strive to make Oakland a destination for artists and those interested in art.
The first First Friday took place in January of 2006, which consisted of just eight art galleries. However, it has grown to be an immense social network, linking artists to the outside world in a creative space. Despite the numerous efforts by the Art Murmur to support the arts, First Friday is the showcase event.
First Friday offers residents and non-residents alike an opportunity to engage with Oakland and experience its diverse culture. It is an event for people of all ages and backgrounds that creates a sense of community in a city that often gets a reputation for being dangerous, especially from those who don’t live there.
This is not to say everything has gone smoothly. If you search web content on First Friday, you will see that an unfortunate incident took place this past February when an 18-year-old male was shot and murdered about an hour after the event ended. But this does not mean the city has given up.
First Friday now only occupies five blocks, closes an hour earlier at 9:00 p.m. and does not serve alcohol. The efforts by the city to keep the movement alive are perhaps best said by the Board President of Oakland Art Murmur, Marshall Lam, “People have to come together and take back the streets.”
What kind of community events does your neighborhood support?
Credits: Photos by Robert Poole. Data linked to sources.