The latest Arts District debacle is oddly reminiscent of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey: An organization builds a program that grows big and powerful; it malfunctions, needs to be repaired, but instead, it takes over. Like Hal, First Friday, it turns out, refuses to give into any one group’s demands.
That reality emerged this week after television news stories reported that First Friday was taking a two-month hiatus, based on a press release sent out by Whirlygig Inc., the nonprofit group that administers a portion of the monthly Downtown event.
Thing is, First Friday permeates the Arts District and beyond, including galleries, restaurants and shops on Commerce Street, Main Street and Colorado and Charleston boulevards.
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Business owners were miffed that Whirlygig announced First Friday would be canceled for a two-month reorganizing effort without mentioning that the rest of the Arts District’s First Friday happenings would continue. Some say that the oversight was an intentional act and part of an ongoing rift between business owners in the Arts District. Businesses went into damage control, and arguments over who owns First Friday (“nobody”) were flung into the air.
Naomi Arin of Whirlygig says the announcement was out of responsibility to “not encourage people” to go to the Arts District when Whirlygig’s usual infrastructure, including street closures, won’t be in place to help ensure crowd safety.
Gallery owners say they plan to carry on as usual while the city and Whirlygig sort things out before the Whirlygig festival returns in October. Some hope the Whirlygig festival portion will discontinue completely and that First Friday will get back to the laid-back bohemian art walk it once was. But it may be too late for that. Hal is in the house.