San Pedro’s popular First Thursday ArtWalk in the downtown district has been redesigned and is set to return next month.
The popular monthly event, which died out last year amid the coronavirus, will be relaunched from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on August 5.
Almost a quarter of a century old First Thursday was one of many similar open house-style festivals used elsewhere to bring residents back to the quaint shopping areas they had largely abandoned in the days of the giant shopping centers.
“Other cities were making the same kind of plans to get people back to the urban core,” said Linda Grimes, general manager of the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District.
In San Pedro, the year-round event is now also seen as an excitement for the nearby waterfront and the rapidly changing downtown landscape as more and more artists have moved into renovated studios and galleries. San Pedro’s all-new Little Italy will also be part of the upcoming festivities.
After the event closed with the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the San Pedro Arts and Culture District surveyed artists and business owners in the area, looking for ideas on the way to refresh ArtWalk, 24, who has seen its share of ups and downs over the years.
Unsurprisingly, one of the main issues centered around the food trucks that have recently populated the event.
As with parking in downtown San Pedro, “everyone has an opinion” about food trucks on First Thursday, Grimes said.
Trucks started pouring in on the first Thursday a decade ago and helped draw new visitors to the sometimes languid monthly events in the tucked-away port city in the far south of the city of Los Angeles.
People loved the food trucks. Or they hated them.
Some restaurants saw them as competitors.
But they also drew in crowds of new people who followed their favorite food trucks wherever they went, increasing the appeal of First Thursday Street and attracting people who had never been to the port.
With food trucks now a staple of First Thursday, talks about a redesign to further refocus artists, restaurants and stores have revolved around moving trucks from the main blocks of Sixth and Seventh Streets and out to the Perimeter. , on Mesa Street near Fifth and Eight Streets.
While individual businesses can still invite a food truck to park in front of their establishments, the plan is to try out the new food truck station held for at least a few months, said Amy Eriksen, director of the Angels Gate Cultural Center, who led many of Zoom’s redesign conversations.
“We can always change it and go back to what it was before,” she said.
Artistic tours of downtown art galleries and studios have always been an early Thursday, but the arts have lost some of their prominence in the event over the years.
“The art walk (in discussions) has always been talked about, but I’ve always been told that (the first Thursday) is an organic event,” Eriksen said. “In meetings with stakeholders, people said that they didn’t want it to be a carnival or circus atmosphere, they wanted it to be really an art walk. “
The first Thursday, she said, doesn’t typically attract a crowd of art buyers, which the revamped event is also working to address with more marketing in art publications.
“People love to look at art and they love the wine and cheese you have, but then they just keep walking,” Eriksen said of the typical First Thursday gallery browsers.
But, she said, the festive vibe and a serious focus on art is achievable.
“I think you can have both,” she said.
The addition of more outdoor dining platforms, resulting from the pandemic shutdown over the past 17 months, will also create a new and festive atmosphere, Eriksen said, while providing more food options.
Among the other highlights of the opening night:
- Several galleries will be open, including Michael Stearns Studio, MS Gallery and Gallery Azul;
- The ArtWalk guided tour will leave Sirens Java & Tea, 402 W. Seventh St., at 6:00 PM; and
- Live music featuring the US 99 Band will perform at 6 p.m. on Sixth and Mesa streets.
In accordance with the most recent LA County protocols, face masks will be required for all indoor environments.