Apparently the gentrifying bit of the South End wedged between Washington St and I-93 is now to be known as SoWa, New York-style. Whatever, Real Estate Guys. It's not an area I might ever have noticed on my own, but last month Professor Orso brought to my attention a NYT Sunday Travel article about its cluster of new art galleries and their First Fridays open house event.
The main action on First Fridays centers on Thayer Street between Harrison and Albany Street, a short pedestrian walk lined with 16 galleries. Of those, 12 have opened in the last six months. Music spills out of the galleries -- electronica in one, a live guitar in another. There's a healthy amount of painting, but photography, video installation and sculpture aren't ignored.Last night was the first Friday of August. We went to check it out -- that is, me and Anna C, who also thought it sounded cool.
Neither are the social aspects of the event. As groups go from door to door, they take cups of the plentiful free wine from bottles of Yellow Tail and Charles Shaw (Two Buck Chuck).
450 Harrison is a four-storey, block-long former industrial building, and from what I can tell almost all of the upper three storeys has been turned into artist's studios. It's impressive. There were maybe a couple dozen open -- more at any rate than we could visit in an hour and a bit -- and it looked like there could be a different set open every month all year. Wandering through reminded me oddly of con party-hopping: long halls, many closed doors, clusters of people with drinks hanging out around the open ones. Some of the parties were more happening than others.
Some personal favourites: a mixed-media piece (coloured pencils, multicoloured paint spatter, sewn thread and origami on parchment) entitled "Mass Movement". A painting of a "ONE WAY" street sign where the Y had transformed into a cursive bird and was fluttering away into the distance. A found-objects sculpture piece of two small kitchen appliances with their arms around each other, entitled "His New Girlfriend". And the wire sculpture of Brian Murphy, which managed to capture the vigour of the best minimalist line drawing in three dimensions, with just bent wire. Completely unexpectedly I ended up bringing one of those home: a small earthenware bud vase with a couple pieces of wire twisted around it to make jazz hands and a surrealist spiral "head". Beautiful. And direct from the artist, ony $20.
Some practicalities: we only arrived at 7:30, and found that most of the food and wine had already been devoured. The event is advertised as 5 to 9; apparently earlier is better.
The galleries are two short blocks from the E Berkeley St stop on the Silver Line. But if you haven't ridden the Silver Line before (and we hadn't) I should advise you of a few things. (1) Yes, the Silver Line intersects the Red Line at South Station. But only the part that goes to the airport! Currently there are actually two Silver Lines, and for the one that goes down Washington St you need Downtown Crossing or Orange Line Chinatown. (2) The Silver Line doesn't actually come into the Downtown Crossing or Chinatown stations. You have to go up onto the street. (3) You actually can get a transfer ticket to then get on the Silver Line without paying again, if you find the Secret Machine. (4) If you don't, Silver Line fare is $0.90. (5) The machine gives you your change in the form of a magstripe "Charlie Ticket". (6) All of the fancy "SilverLine Rapid Transit" hype aside, on Washington St it's just a bus, and waits in traffic like everyone else.
I will be going back again, probably September 2 if anyone wants to join me.