The sounds of laughter and jazz permeate the intimate Gainesville Fine Arts Association Gallery. Paintings, sculptures and photographs adorn the walls and floor space. Artists smile next to their pieces as they explain the meanings behind their art. Everyone seems to be catching up with friends they haven’t seen for years, but this is a typical scene that occurs on the last Friday of almost every month.
For over two decades Artwalk has been transforming downtown Gainesville into a central art hub for one night each month. The Hippodrome, SL8, First Magnitude Brewing Co. and other businesses come together to showcase the talent within Greater Gainesville. Bustling downtown becomes an intimate gathering that offers art of all mediums, attracting Gainesville natives, out-of-towners and especially art lovers.
Depending on who you ask, the exact start date for the Artwalk can vary from 1988 to ‘92. What started as a small, informal event with a dozen or less businesses has become a free, self-guided tour that has put over 20 venues on their map. Typically held on the last Friday of every month (in December, Artwalk will be held on the 7th), downtown Gainesville businesses open their doors to promote local art, attracting people from all over Alachua County.
“We have a little bit of everything,” said Frank Curtis, coordinator for Gainesville Artwalk. “We have artwork that ranges in price from $5 to $10 to $5,000.”
There are venues for practically everyone at Artwalk, and all types of mediums. Businesses include First Magnitude Brewing Co., Maude’s Classic Café, The Hippodrome Gallery and Sweetwater Print Cooperative. The art ranges from paintings to sculptures to films.
At Artwalk, you never know who you’ll meet or run into. While sitting in a room overlooking the gallery through a windowed wall, Curtis was visible to anyone who walked by. Whether a close friend, colleague or art enthusiast, Curtis welcomed everyone who waved. The greetings illustrate the sense of community felt in and around this popular event. The galleries are more than just rooms that exhibit art; they are a gathering place for the creative exchange between artist and audience.
“By having the arts here, it brings up an area,” said Bob Freeman, one of the founding members of Artwalk.
More than just offering a chance to see art, the event also benefits the Gainesville community. In January, Artwalk will feature a fundraiser benefitting local Alachua County schools.
The “Home is Where the Art Is” fundraiser is hosted by the Friends of Elementary Arts organization. Artwalk will be presenting pieces of art, including chairs, tables, mirrors and cigar boxes, to raise money for public schools to have art-based field trips. Students will have the opportunity to attend either a trip to the Harn Museum of Art or the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, complete with a guided-tour.
Artwalk is free to the public, and there is art for practically every taste. Each participating venues has its own draw to encourage people to come see the art. Some offer live music, snacks and beverages. The Hippodrome State Theatre often features local productions on the stage during Artwalk that can be enjoyed by purchasing tickets at the box office or buying season tickets. One of the newest venues, The SL8, is on its way to creating a movie theater-like experience just in the back of the gallery.
“In some ways Artwalk is almost taken for granted,” Curtis said. “It’s so unique because it’s spread out over a big area instead of being housed in one little place.”
Venues can pay a $35 fee each month to be a part of the event, or a $280 fee to be an annual subscriber.
Artists can get involved through venues or become featured artists at the various participating businesses.
Artwalk is a non-profit organization, and donations are always appreciated.