BY ALEXA CHERRY
For the UAS Whalesong
On November 6th, I attended First Friday in downtown Juneau for the first time in my almost 4 years of living and going to school here. Since it was my first time, I honestly had no idea what to expect; I knew that it was supposed to be some kind of gallery walk, but that’s hard to form a mental image of when you’ve never actually been on a gallery walk before. In my mind, I was picturing something that was probably more similar to a set from Owen Wilson’s film “Midnight in Paris;” I imagined a sort of promenade down an entirely fictional boulevard downtown, lined with galleries that would have brought some of their best pieces out to display on the sidewalk while people walked along under twinkling lights strung up overhead and sipped wine set out for sampling and murmured appreciatively while being exposed to culture.
Perhaps needless to say, this was not the case at all. I went downtown with some friends, and our first stop was the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council (JAHC). We got to pet a dog that was there, and were informed that the event they had planned was not going to start for another 30 minutes. So, we decided to venture out into the dark and the rain and go get drinks from Coppa, a local café known for their ice cream (which they make themselves). Thirty minutes later, we circled back to the JAHC with our drinks in tow to discover that there was a display of stone sculptures by Lou Cacioppo and Bob Koenitzer, also known as “Two Stone Guys.” My companions meandered the gallery, spending much more time looking at the pieces than I did. I’m not ashamed to confess that once I discovered the snack buffet and complimentary hot cider, I got myself a plate of makeshift dinner and escaped to the hallway, where I attempted to spend some quality time with the dog. Eventually my friends tracked me down, and we headed out to go still further downtown to see what else First Friday had in store for us.
After getting coffee at the new Heritage café (which was not a part of First Friday, but was huge and beautiful and made the hipster in me get really excited and want to invest in at least 3 new coffee mugs), we crossed the street and went to the Rookery. There, they were displaying photography by Chris Miller, and also having some kind of buffet dinner event at the same time. This made for a strange combination of people walking through the café and standing alongside the tables of mildly uncomfortable couples who were not sure what was going on but just wanted to enjoy their romantic buffet dinner in peace. Sorry, romantic couples. It was culture time.
From the Rookery, we circled around the block and ducked into several other venues participating in First Friday. The Canvas was having a display of fly fishing art, which was cool; it was also where I found free samples of some kind of immune system-boosting drink containing ginger, lemon, and cayenne pepper and decided to chug it like a shot. So if you saw a girl in a yellow coat crying in the Canvas on First Friday, it was probably me regretting every decision I’d made in the past five minutes while also trying to keep my eyes from watering. (Why do your eyes water when you eat spicy stuff? Science people, get on that.) We ducked into Hearthside Books and spoke to Sitka-based photographer Larisa Manewal, after which I had to dedicate not-inconsiderable effort and distraction techniques (i.e., me walking out of the store without them) to save my English major friends (and their wallets) from themselves.
Next up was Annie Kaill’s, a store in which I had never set foot before and also in which was a frankly alarming combination of many breakable, frequently glass things and a startling amount of people. I did my best to find a quiet corner and stand very still, too anxious about the well-being of multiple matching dish sets to truly appreciate their worksmanship. After I decided to hedge my bets and abscond from the shop, my friends followed me over to the Trickster Company, where I came very close to purchasing a fancy custom skateboard deck before remembering that I had been on a skateboard once in my life and very nearly sustained a concussion from that experience. I put the deck back and decided to brush up on my skills before spending money on anything fancy.
Our final two destinations were the Kindred Post and Alaska Robotics Gallery. I had been wanting to go to the Kindred Post for some time, having followed them on Facebook a while ago but still having no idea where they were actually located. It seemed a little smaller than the pictures online had made it look, but that likely had to do with the amount of people milling around inside, enjoying the atmosphere and the live music. They were also enjoying the photobooth that the Whalesong’s very own photographer Darin Donohue had set up, offering people an opportunity to get fun and seasonally appropriate pictures of themselves. He did a great job and seemed to be having a good time, even after I made off with half of his bubble solution (thanks, Darin). There were a few less people at the Alaska Robotics Gallery, but that wasn’t a bad thing; it enabled me to strike up a rapport with a friendly sales representative, who helped me look for some books I couldn’t find and recommended several comics to me. Thank you, friendly sales representative. You get an honorable mention because I’m bad with names.
And that was that! We walked back to the JAHC where we’d parked, piled into the driver’s toasty car, and went home. Overall, I think First Friday was a great success, and I would recommend you go at least once – but I would maybe recommend you go earlier in the year, so that you’re not walking down the street in the cold and wet and wind and basically running from venue to venue. It’s hard to feel like a sophisticated lover of art and culture when you’re dripping on a gallery floor.