First Friday: Knoxville’s monthly tradition celebrates the arts

Downtown Knoxville’s monthly event, First Friday, celebrates local arts and culture.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn.: Once every month, thousands flock to Downtown Knoxville to participate in First Fridays, the decade-long tradition that celebrates Knoxville’s developing art culture.

Thirteen years ago, First Friday began as one of the many efforts made by the people of Downtown Knoxville to transform this once-dull, deserted cluster of buildings into a lively, culture-rich hotspot of activity at the heart of this ever-growing city.

Today, dozens of galleries and venues observe this tradition by opening their doors to the public and offering free viewings of local art, live music and, in some cases, free food. Each participating venue places a colorful flag on the sidewalk to indicate their inclusion in the First Friday “Art Walk.”

For many, this walk begins at the Emporium Center for the Arts and Culture. Liza Zenni, executive director of the Arts and Culture Alliance, explained that this event has helped businesses and artists alike thrive over the years by increasing foot traffic Downtown.

“People can go to one place or the can go to twenty places downtown. A lot of times people come down, they’ll start at the Emporium, then they’ll go have dinner and then they’ll wander down Gay Street  and see what else is open,” Zenni said.

This celebration of arts and culture extends throughout Downtown Knoxville from Market Square, down Gay Street and to the old city. People have plenty of opportunities to not only experience art in its many forms, but also to support local artists.

“It gives an opportunity to our artists to talk to people about what they’re doing, to hear the feedback, to hear what people say and to kind of introduce themselves as artists to the general public,” Zenni explained.

The artists whose works are displayed are grateful for this opportunity not only for themselves, but also for the people who come to see the exhibits.

“I think it’s very important because it makes people be near art,” said Argentinian photographer, Judith Rodriguez.

People of all ages come to events like this, finding joy in the entertainment and in the beauty of the arts, and the number of people coming increases each month. Zenni claimed that “more and more of every sector of Knoxville’s society is taking pride in its local art community.”

This community-wide event brings the people of Knoxville together to experience art and the beauty of Downtown’s Knoxville’s developing culture.

The city of Knoxville continues to grow and develop, and so does its art and so does its people, as they all work together to create a beautiful, transformative society.

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