Best Arts Institution: First Thursday Art Walk

Did you know the First Thursday Art Walk is over 30 years old? And that it bills itself as the first and oldest art walk in the country? A model now followed by every gallery district in America? (And by Belltown, West Seattle, and Cap Hill.) I had no idea. It was founded back in 1981, when the few early Pioneer Square galleries were led by the late, great Linda Farris. The historic district had only recently been preserved. Artists and galleries were gradually colonizing the old red-brick buildings, often shared with SROs and soup kitchens. Greg Kucera, a gallery we now consider established, didn’t arrive until ’83. The Tashiro Kaplan Building wasn’t created until 2004. Back in the early ’80s, the neighborhood was dicey. Today, on a warm summer evening, the still-struggling neighborhood comes alive with hipsters on fixies, older collectors in nice cars, and curious connoisseurs of every stripe. Musicians and craft vendors fill Occidental Park. Nord Alley becomes a covert party zone. Buskers abound. It’s what we want Pioneer Square to be (every day of the week) and what we want the local art scene to be: fun, inclusive, celebratory, not for snobs. And a reminder: The next art walk is September 5. See you there.

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