In 2021, IU’s First Thursdays festivals added a new component to the festival called Artists Row. Artists Row is a section of the festival where student and community artists can showcase and sell their artwork.
The festival takes place on the first Thursday of September, October, November and April. It includes food trucks, arts and humanities activities groups, experts demonstrating their work and stage performances.
When Artists Row began in 2021, Gerard Pannekoek, a programming coordinator for the IU Arts and Humanities Council, had to do a lot of the artist outreach. This year, he said has seen student artist participation almost double.
“Artists have talked to their friends and people have come out to the festival and seen Artists Row, and heard really good things about it,” Pannekoek said. “I have a lot more students now reaching out to me and asking to be a part of it.”
Sophomore Anna Prager is a student artist who became involved in First Thursdays last Spring. Since then, she has participated in every festival with her business, Art Wurmz.
Prager started her business selling prints, but now she sells more stickers and buttons since they have become her most popular products.
“I’m used to more serious artwork, but I think what people really like is just the more goofy stuff that I make,” Prager said. “I make a lot of little funny animal drawings.”
Both student and community artists are represented on Artist Row. Pannekoek said Artists Row provides a space for artists to interact.
“I’ve made pretty good friends with the other artists who are typically on Artists Row,” Prager said. “There’s a great community around the whole thing.”
While bigger art festivals can be intimidating to beginner art vendors and include fees, Pannekoek said First Thursdays is a way for artists to develop professionally as an artist for free.
“Out of all of the different things I’ve done with my art, First Thursdays has given me the most exposure out of anything,” Prager said.
First year graduate student Eric Agyemang-Dua is another student on Artists Row. His art business, Ea.J’s Studios, focuses on connecting and inspiring others through storytelling in his art.
Agyemang-Dua was born and raised in Gana before moving to Virginia where he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019. He was recently accepted into IU’s master’s program for mental health counseling and has been in Bloomington for just two months. Agyemang-Dua got involved with First Thursdays as soon as he heard about it.
Agyemang-Dua started art as a kid, making sculptures out of aluminum foil or anything he could get his hands on. In 2018 he got into painting because it was easier to display, and now he sells minimalistic acrylic paintings that show individuals or groups of people. His art emphasizes hand placement and connections.
“I got some sales, but I think for me, being able to tell my story and get people captivated by the stories behind the paintings, that’s been my biggest result,” Agyemang-Dua said.
The next First Thursday festival will take place from 4-7 p.m. Nov 3 in the Indiana Arts Plaza around Showalter Fountain.