Downtown Atlanta is bursting at the seams with attractions: Georgia Aquarium, Phillips Arena, the CNN Center, and the College Football Hall of Fame, to name a few. But there’s a difference in going downtown for a specific reason, and going downtown to actually spend time downtown. If you’re looking for an opportunity to do just that, then you should consider the Downtown ArtsWalk.
Held on the first Thursday of each month, art galleries tucked away on various streets of downtown Atlanta remain open from 5 pm to 8 pm, extending their hours so that visitors can pop in, sip some wine, and enjoy diverse forms of art, all for free.
Ten different galleries regularly participate in the art stroll, and the names, addresses, and descriptions are listed on the website. When you stand outside the gallery, there’s a sign out front that lets you know you’ve arrived.
Here are a few of our favorite pieces from the evening.
When I told people about this art stroll, several asked if I meant the Castleberry Art Stroll, which is in a nearby neighborhood and is admittedly more well-known. But the Downtown Art Stroll has actually been around (in various incarnations) since the early 1990s, and is now experiencing another resurgence.
With the efforts of gallery owners like Troy Farina, the First Thursdays Downtown Art Stroll has a dedicated social media presence, committed participants, and plans to expand. Troy would like for downtown to become an epicenter of arts. Here he is with one of his pieces:
- On some downtown streets, parking is free after 7 pm. So that’s a great opportunity to snag a parking space, enjoy the art stroll, and then grab dinner at one of the nearby restaurants that you’ve never tried.
- The Atlanta Streetcar. Several streetcar stops are quite near the galleries on the tour, so it’s easier than ever to navigate downtown. Hop on, hop off!
- Downtown Atlanta is actually part of the art. There are some really cool buildings downtown, and it’s nice to marvel at the architecture.
All in all, I felt like I was rediscovering downtown Atlanta. I hardly spend any time walking around those streets; I’m always driving through, or hustling from my parking space to a Hawks game or Centennial Park, or somewhere. But by checking out this art stroll, and it was great to see other people on foot. It was easy to get directions to the next gallery from people who’d just left there. It was easy to make new friends!
Maybe that’s the real fun of an event like this. It’s a clever little trick, implying that the art is the star of the night, when in reality, the real star is the opportunity to get out and be with people. Not people who are hustling to get to their destination, but who realize that the stroll to the destination is the best part of the journey.
We were only able to attend three of the galleries this month, but it is definitely worth experiencing fully. With late-night attractions such as SkyView and the Tabernacle, there is plenty of energy and fun to be had in the neighborhood, and people ought to come out and experience it.
- The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Gallery
- Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History
- The African American Panoramic Experience (APEX) Museum
- F-- USE at C4 Atlanta.
- Georgia State University Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design Gallery
- Luckie Street Studios
- Paige Harvey Art Studio
- The Rialto Center for the Arts
- The Window Project
- Underground Atlanta
I first wrote this article for Atlanta.net!