During the first Friday of every month, downtown Knoxville becomes very vibrant.
First Friday is held each month and features openings of various art galleries, stretching from the 100 block of Gay Street into Market Square.
"Market Square was the starting point for the idea, but is now a minor player, it's spread throughout downtown," Steven Lareau, local artist, said. "Hair salons, movie theaters, restaurants — it's not confined to galleries anymore."
First Friday runs year round and features new artists every week.
Businesses that will feature work for September's First Friday include 2 Many Pixels on Jackson Avenue, Black Market Clothing and Bliss on Market Square, and Lox Salon on Jackson Avenue.
With so many venues displaying art, artists can gain wide exposure for their work.
"The cool thing about First Friday," Lareau said, "is that it allows a wide variety of artists to get wall space for their art, instead of having to fight for position on the walls of the few full-time galleries. There's so many places that participate that it allows beginners to get in on the act."
Lareau added, "And it's all about exposure, getting your art out into the world for people to see, so this is great for people of all talents."
Lareau runs a website, Knoxvillefirstfriday.com, that lists both past and present gallery openings. Although the website gives information about the event, it is in no way sponsored or endorsed by the City of Knoxville.
"I started the Knoxvillefirstfriday.com site (in) June of 2008, and (First Friday) had been going on before this, probably by a year or so," Lareau said. "Back then, I found very little information, aside from a mention on the Market Square website that galleries are open late on the first Friday of every month. There wasn't any sort of info as far as who's participating, who the artists are, so I figured I'd set up and run this site to help the art community get a bit more organized by trying to list the monthly shows."
In addition to running the website, Lareau is also an artist in his own right and will be featured at The Tree and Vine at Market Square.
"I'm entirely digital from start to finish. I work in flame fractals, a type of math art," Laureau said. "In order to make images large enough to make prints, they're rendered on a dedicated, custom-built computer with enough horsepower to grind through the serious math needed to create these images. I do my own prints in-house on a large format printer, so I have total control of the process. I do my own matting and framing, so it's done right."
Chances are, if you go to eat, see a movie, go shopping or are just walking around downtown, you have run into some of these exhibits.
"I've been to many places in the downtown area and I've seen these exhibits, but I never knew they were by local artists," said Samantha Owens, senior in public relations. "I think it benefits both the artists and the local businesses to participate in First Friday."