The IU Arts and Humanities Council welcomed IU students and the Bloomington community back to the First Thursdays festival, the first one of the year. The celebration was from 5-8 p.m. in the Fine Arts Plaza.
The evening featured booths from local artists and IU student organizations, performances by Bloomington musicians, hands-on activities and refreshments. Crowds of students and Bloomington art lovers gathered around Showalter Fountain and along Seventh Street to explore the many attractions.
Several interest groups, including religious studies, language programs, African Studies, the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and the Jewish Culture Center, were among the over 50 organizations represented at the event.
In front of the Fine Arts building, crowds of students huddled around a table, clumping clay together in their hands and molding it into butterflies, mushrooms and faces. Once they finished their creations, first year ceramics graduate student Faith Belflower stuck the pieces to a large tower covered in clay.
Belflower said it was impossible to choose a favorite edition to the communal piece.
“Everyone coming together and collaborating, that's my favorite aspect,” Belflower said. “Doesn't matter the specific piece, but I think just coming out as a whole. I can't wait to see the end product.”
Behind Belflower, Malcom Smith, director of graduate studies at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design and associate professor of ceramics, sat in the bed of a spray-painted truck, exemplifying the use of a potter’s wheel.
On the sidewalk below, graduate students walked guests through the steps of working on a potter’s wheel of their own.
While he spun a vase from dark brown clay, Smith said he hoped the students testing out ceramics for the day would consider the courses Eskenazi offers.
“I just like people getting engaged with the mud that I’ve been playing with for most of my life,” he said while laughing.
Members of Eskenazi’s fashion design program welcomed visitors to upcycle old clothes. In the middle of their tent, boxes of T-shirts spilled over one another. Clusters of students gathered around to cut, tie or safety pin their garment until it became something brand new.
Jackie Arellano, a junior fashion design major, said she hoped the project would positively impact the environment.
“There’s a lot of waste in the world,” Arellano said. “Thrift stores are there for a reason, for people to go and get old clothes and reuse them again, give them a purpose.”
Thursday evening featured performances by local rock band Street Pennies, opera singers from the upcoming show “Don Giovanni,” the Bloomington Delta Music Club, IU Violin Virtuosi and the Cosmic Songwriters Club.
IU senior Olivia Noojin worked the event as part of the IU Arts and Humanities Council. Noojin said she remembers watching one of her favorite local bands — Six Foot Blonde — perform for the first time at a First Thursdays her freshman year.
“I liked being a follower of a local band. I’d never followed a local band before,” she said. “I went to see them at the Bluebird a couple of times, so it’s nice to have made that connection.”
Along Seventh Street, Artist Row displayed booths from local and student artists selling handmade jewelry, drawings, stickers and upcycled clothes among many other artworks. Food trucks such as La Poblana Taco Truck, Smoke Eaters, Wacky Bunnz, Pili’s Party Taco, the Chocolate Moose, Big Cheeze and Rasta Pops parked around the artists.
Across the lawn, 2-year-old Avi climbed on the edge of the Indiana Arc. His parents, IU Hebrew professor Dmitry Romashov and School of Education counseling intern Bethany Romashov, said they wanted their young son to experience the street festival atmosphere.
“He’s a pandemic child,” Dmitry said. “So far he’s trying to escape.”
“He’s just not used to it,” Bethany added, “We never really went out.”
The couple said they’d recommend First Thursdays to any other parents looking for a family friendly event. For Bethany, it was a given.
“What’s not to like?” She asked.