Last Friday marked the First Friday of the month, which means that once more people flocked in droves to downtown Raleigh for a lively night of art, culture, food and drink. First Friday is easy to remember without your online scheduler since it not surprisingly occurs on the first Friday night of every month and never disappoints as a reliable evening of cultural and social bliss. It functions as a self-guided tour through downtown Raleigh’s cultural hotspots and art spaces. Almost every gallery and studio art space has something special planned. Most galleries premier an exhibition opening and host a reception to which the entire public is welcome to enjoy art and libations. Galleries are open late, on average until 9 or 10pm.


There is always something novel to be experienced at First Friday. Local artists always have new artwork on display and there is always a fresh, new month of events to celebrate. We are now in the midst of full-on holiday season and Fayetteville Street is adorned by thousands of tiny fairy lights. There is an ice skating rink in City Plaza to enjoy, and it’s easy to get lost in the night while wandering through the dreamy streets of twinkles, tall buildings, bustling eateries and lively art galleries full of jolly patrons.

Last weekend at December’s First Friday, true to form, Artspace’s historic hallways in City Market were packed with art-lovers of all ages. A bizarre and wonderful exhibition of mushroom art by Shannon Newby drew visitors to the lobby. Artspace’s current Community Artist-in-Residence, Tisha Weddington, was also a huge hit. Her paintings display a surreal and sensual world of human and animal oddities, and are on display through December.


In an underground gallery known as The Fish Market, below Fayetteville Street, the NC State Department of Art + Design held its annual senior exit show. The Fish Market gallery space is owned by the university and functions as a student gallery, exhibiting student work every First Friday.  This month the basement lair is filled with examples of creative textile design, handcrafted metalwork jewelry, animation, storybook illustration, photography and more.

Though I only caught glimpse of it through a window on Hargett Street, I was swooning for Nicole Kennedy’s series of paintings: The Carolina Ballet on Canvas. The series features delicate Degas-esque paintings in pastels that are so pretty it’s impossible not to linger. A few of the paintings were inspired by the Ballet’s current show The Nutcracker. The series is being shown at Caffé Luna, the restaurant owned by Nicole’s husband, Parker Kennedy. Nicole's work can also be seen at her gallery, Nicole's Studio, on North Person Street.


311 West Martin Street Gallery and Studios, a co-op style gallery and studio space, located on the west side of Fayetteville Street in the Warehouse District, was open providing an after-hours opportunity to catch of a glimpse new art. The studio houses 14 tenant artist spaces and also has showing space for non-tenant local artists. Don’t miss 311’s Becky Loye, whose In Search of Lightness series is a personal favorite.

For more information on First Friday events, visit here. And if you haven’t already, get yourself down to Fayetteville Street before the holiday season flies by and make sure not to miss celebrating the New Year at next month’s First Friday set for January 4, 2013!