A First for First Friday

On the eve of its ninth anniversary, the downtown art event gets a face-lift. Here’s what’s in store.

What will the under-new-management, for-profit First Friday look and feel like when it debuts Oct. 7? It will probably be quite similar to pre-hiatus First Friday, with better parking. But that’s just the start. The event’s new owners—First Friday Las Vegas, a group made up of Zappos execs Tony Hsieh and Fred Mossler, developer Andrew Donner, and marketer Joey Vanas—have big plans in the works, right after pulling off Oct. 7, which happens to be First Friday’s ninth anniversary. Here’s what to expect in the long run:

Better art: Last week, First Friday Las Vegas hired professional curators Nicole Moffatt and Michele Quinn, who collectively handle the Locals Only series at CENTERpiece Gallery at CityCenter. Quinn is looking to boost the artistic quality of First Friday, which in turn should entice more local artists to participate. “We don’t intend to be exclusive in any way,” she says, “but want to bring the work up to a level with more artistic merit, meaning beyond student-level work, and work that has strength in terms of quality, technique and content. There is a large group of interesting artists in the community that have shied away from participating, and we feel that this shift in direction will help to promote this event as something to be a part of again.”

Better parking: One thing patrons may notice right away is more parking. First Friday Las Vegas has arranged for more pay lots in the hope of alleviating one of the lingering complaints about the monthly festival. Beyond Oct. 7, look for parking to get easier with free remote lots and shuttles to take people to the action.

A bigger vision: Under its new management, First Friday will take up more of the calendar each month. Vanas envisions the First Friday name applied to panel discussions, visiting-artist programs, mixers and art walks. “We’ve got to try to market this area as a whole,” he says, “and let people know that in downtown Las Vegas there is a thriving art scene with a national and international audience.” He wants to expand the event’s footprint at Casino Center Boulevard and East Colorado Avenue, and he’s already met with the city and business owners along the periphery of that area to get the idea moving. And watch for changes to the Fremont Street venue, such as murals on the sides of buildings and street-themed art to accompany the music. “There are all these tall buildings down there with all these walls,” he says. “And they are crying out for creative energy.”