The First Friday Gallery Walk features a series of neighboring galleries around downtown Bloomington hosting many artists and events, while allowing a walkable experience for the artistic atmosphere. The walk began Feb. 3.
The Venue, located on 114 S. Grant St., is one of the 14 galleries. Inside the gallery, it is a playground for the eyes and the mind. Derek Collins and his landscape paintings fill the art space with vibrant hues of floral fields and sunset imagery, bringing light and life to the cold winter days.
Dave Colman, the owner of The Venue, pointed to the wood fired ceramic mug filled with coffee in his hand and said it was an extremely special piece of his gallery collection.
“I searched out somebody in Bloomington who would do wood fired ceramics, so we’ve only had it for about the last year, but I’ve looked for it for the past six years,” Colman said.
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Colman said his dedication to the craft and meticulous selection of material objects gives the gallery charm and individualized touch. He said he and his wife were both very committed to the gallery.
“My wife and I would go to art shows around the country,” Colman said about the first years of the gallery when he was just getting started as an art curator. "We went to Chelsea Art District, Miami, Scottsdale... then the more local shows… looking for artists to show.”
The investment in the gallery is equally reciprocated by the community. “Gallery Walk” speaks to the local artistic talents and unites crowds of curious viewers under a common interest.
“Membership in gallery walk is numerically greater than it has ever been; we see people on that Friday night that we do not see any other time come out,” Colman said. “For some people, it is a personal tradition, and they go to every Gallery Walk.”
Julie Gootee, Colman’s assistant, said the event organization was well thought out.
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She and Colman said the walk gives residents a chance to come together and for Bloomington businesses to support one another. Stores and restaurants often use this time to market themselves and make their presence known among their more established neighbors, they said.
“It’s good timing too because it brings you right downtown, and you can catch dinner or something like that,” Gootee said. “We would like to see it be as big as it once was pre-pandemic.”
Holly Warren, the assistant director for the Arts in Bloomington, said the city’s main goal for the future of Gallery Walk is to create a space for traditional and modern artists alike, to explore their creative identity and experience diverse ideas and conversations through the sharing of art.
“There have been new members who put fresh blood into what’s been around,” Warren said.
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She said the modernization of Gallery Walk is an attempt to appeal to a more intersectional audience and draw a larger crowd of young people to bridge generational gaps and carry the tradition of art in the community.
Warren said there are different galleries around Bloomington including the I Fell Gallery, which is an art space located on the west side of Bloomington that hosts artists, small businesses, and a bakery.
“They have started putting focus on live music and all-age shows,” Warren said. “I think that's what the community really needs; more exhibits of contemporary issues of human rights and social justice. It is a very cool experience to see with your friends and it's starting more contemporary conversations.”
While the Gallery Walk evolves with its audience, the event strives to share experiences through art with locals and keep the creative spirit alive no matter what medium it takes on. It’s accessible for residents and students through a short walk to the city center. It’s an event one can do on their own time, and at their own pace. There is no entrance fee, or cost to attend, so it’s just about making the time to enjoy the art.