From crafts to back alleys, First Friday asserts its identity

The Zappos-enhanced First Friday has a fun, new vibe: It’s traded the angst of high art for a carnival atmosphere. On Jan. 6, the Arts District hosted an inflatable bouncy slide in the new kids area, an army of food trucks, a celebrity sighting (ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons) and even an old-fashioned pipe-organ music box in a trailer, pumping out old-timey tunes. But the biggest change was the addition of crafts to the art offerings, making the event feel a little more like Boulder City’s Art in the Park than a gritty downtown experience. (The booth for the Fairy Tales & Tutus ballet studio might have tipped the scales.) For those who needed more art, Brett Wesley Gallery offered an impressive exhibition of fourth-year UNLV art/photography students (the show, called Picture This, runs through Jan. 28).

Down on Fremont East, the festival set up shop in an alley behind the Beauty Bar. The new location, called GetBack Alley, offered a unique feel. Giant prop gargoyles and smoke machines guarded the entrance to a hidden block party that included skateboarders, live murals, a couple artist booths (tattoo artist Leo “Catman” Villaseñor’s retro prints were a highlight), live bands (Lipstick Killas deserved a larger crowd) and back access to the bars. It was a cool addition to the night, if your art itinerary already included Emergency Arts or the Griffin, but not yet worth a trip on its own.

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