First Friday in downtown Anchorage is an event Anchorage-ites look forward to every month. It is easy to forget about how eclectic and artsy our bustling winter city is. However, the original tent city doesn’t let its citizens forget when the First Friday of the month rolls around, when all the shops, bars and restaurants pay homage to the creativity in town. Walking down Fourth and Fifth Avenue in the evening of a First Friday, one will see people flooding to and fro with the sound of local folk songs muffled behind shop windows. Many shops and restaurants open their doors to art and music lovers who wander the street looking for creative talent. This month’s first Friday happens Feb. 5.
One such gallery, the International Gallery of Contemporary Art of Anchorage located on D Street, is a subtle and discrete art venue that boasts quite the First Friday gallery opening. The International Gallery of Contemporary Art was one of the original founders of the Anchorage First Friday Walk, which they continue to host monthly. This month IGAC hosts three exhibitions: Sarah Mellisa Whalen’s “Animus: The Collective Unconscious,” Don Decker’s “Snow on the Water” and an invitational group exhibition curated by Honor Bowman, “Outside In: Paintings from Other Places.” IGAC will be open from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Feb. 5.
International Gallery of Contemporary Art Manager Honor Bowman acknowledged the traffic First Friday brings to the gallery.
“On First Friday, we host hundreds of people and the majority of them come every month and are supporters of the gallery who also attend our other events and subscribe to our email newsletter. Our annual block party on D Street, which takes place on September’s First Friday drew roughly 1,000 people this year,” said Bowman.
Perhaps the king of all First Friday events downtown is at the Anchorage Museum. With five events happening in the evening alone, the museum also offers free admission on the First Friday of the month.
“The museum is a cornerstone of downtown Anchorage. It’s a great spot and we have free general admission from 6 – 9 p.m. every First Friday. Living here in the winter, having activities to do and being able to go out is a great opportunity, especially to meet people who have similar interests. A thriving active downtown is great for everyone in the community,” said Laura Carpenter, Anchorage Museum public relations manager.
With events ranging from Battle of the Breweries to an exhibition bringing elevator music to a new level, the museum is the place to start on your downtown Anchorage First Friday tour.
The First Friday jaunt continues across the street at Midnight Sun Cafe. The cafe is showcasing local artist Sunny Foster and her paintings inspired by the sea she loves so dearly.
Journey further down Sixth Avenue on the other side of the mall and stumble across Sub Zero Bistro and Microlounge. There you will find photographer Ivy Bowler and her exhibit titled “Identities,” a multi-layered perspective at the fabric of what makes us who we are.
Stroll along Fifth Avenue and find Bottoms Boutique’s new location. Taking advantage of the higher traffic downtown of First Friday, Bottoms Boutique is having a grand re-opening of their new store location. With concrete artist, Spartan Designs, and DJ Anthem, the event is set to be a red carpet affair with Tina Marie Photography documenting the event. The night ends with a VIP after-party at L.E.D. Ultra Lounge.
Walking past the Alaska Performing Arts Center, cross back over to Fourth Avenue. Where side-by-side, is Sevigny Studio and Alaska Cake Studio.
Sevigny Studio will be hosting musician Bill Bilivet and the works of artist Enzina Marrari. Marrari’s exhibit, “Center,” is mixed media, with the element of symbolism to display human interactions.
Alaska Cake Studio will be welcoming Mary Leonard, who will showcase her pieces of wearable art.
Brown Bag Sandwich Company with their new location on Third Avenue, the sandwich shop and bar can accommodate more guests and more events. From 6 – 8 p.m., Fish First Friday, will keep visitors minds on Alaskan salmon. There will be food and drink, as well as local art put on by the Alaska Center for the Environment. There will be a silent auction as well.
Further down on First Avenue, by the railroad depot, is Anchorage Community Works. ACW has been participating in First Friday since its inception in 2013. Besides visual arts and music, the non-profit is working on integrating more unconventional and performing art forms.
“Our event is designed to be hub for artists to share their work. Recently we’ve been attempting to incorporate performance art into our traditional graphic and music offerings. Jugglers, dancers even. I don’t know what I’m going to see, so that’s a lot of fun,” Mike Dickenson, ACW’s audio lead, said.
First Friday is an excellent opportunity to get out and be involved with the community. Whatever form of art you enjoy, a First Friday stroll is sure to offer something for everyone. First Friday events begin downtown around 5 p.m. and go on late into the evening. All events are free, unless otherwise specified.
Anchorage Museum Events
Battle of the Breweries
6 – 9 p.m.
Sample beer, brewed locally here in Alaska. 21 and older, flights (a serving of several samples) of beer are five dollars.
Polar Nights: Exhibition opening for Michael Conti: Stick and Puck
6 – 9 p.m.
Artist Michael Conti focuses show Stick and Puck on the enforcer’s job in hockey, specifically enforcer Derek Boogaard. Conti also counters the roughness of the enforcers with portraits of female hockey players.
Polar Nights: Exhibition opening for Nicholas Galanin: Kill the Indian, Save the Man
6 p.m. -9 p.m.
Nicholas Galanin mixes Indigenous and contemporary in his art. Galanin opens his show Kill the Indian, Save the Man featuring his influences from varying time periods on Feb. 5.
Polar Nights: Elevator Music
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
An interactive exhibit bringing new definition to background noise in the museums oversized elevator, with live music by Todd Grebe and Cold Country.
Polar Nights: Look Smart and Talk about Art
Learn the lingo of art as you explore the art of Alaska.
Who Owns the Story?
7 – 9 p. m.
Explore the stories of war through the perspective of veteran and civilian writers. Learn and discuss the experiences of civilian and non-civilian war stories with distinguished authors, Sherry Simpson, Benjamin Busch, Elliott Ackerman and Lea Carpenter, representing both civilian and veteran life in this writing workshop.