First Fridays 2019

Art, being observed. 

In common with many arts communities, Ithaca’s runs a monthly gallery open house on a set date each month. Run by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance with sponsorship from the Tompkins Trust Company and the Community Arts Partnership, Gallery Night Ithaca hosts exhibit receptions from 5 to 8 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.

Mostly located on or around the Commons, formal galleries are joined by a rotating group of more informal spaces: typically shops and cafes. The event is free and the art-interested public is invited to meet and converse with artists and fellow aficionados while enjoying complimentary snacks and beverages.

Most spaces rotate their exhibits every month with the art also viewable to the public during regular open hours.

The next “First Friday” will be held on Feb. 1. Below are some highlights. (Up-to-date information will be published later this month on the Gallery Night Ithaca webpage as well as printed brochures available for pick-up around town.)

The State of the Art Gallery (120 West State St. #2) is downtown’s oldest dedicated exhibition space. This year they will be celebrating their 30th anniversary—an impressive feat by any standards and perhaps especially by local ones. Founded in 1989, the member run cooperative has consistently boasted some of Ithaca’s best-known and accomplished artists. The current membership includes 28 artists working in the fields of painting, photography, sculpture, fabric, digital imageryand beyond.

For February, the SOAG will be hosting a “Former Members Show” featuring 42 artists, several now deceased. It’s a rare and exciting gesture towards historical memory in a visual arts scene that lacks a sense of history. Notable figures and personal favorites include distinguished portrait painter William Benson, the late bronze figurative sculptor Gurdon Brewster, post-impressionist Leslie Brill (now of New York City), watercolorist Camille Doucet, photographer Dede Hatch, visionary still-life painter Stephan Phillips and Cornell University professor and conceptualist Buzz Spector. Many of these former members remain active in the area.

Also to be included will be the well-known Barbara Mink, who has been exhibiting her own work—and occasionally that of others—in her home gallery for several years. Recently she and her husband Jack Goldman have reconfigured the Bookery (215 North Cayuga St.), which Goldman has operated in the DeWitt Mall since the late seventies, for the same purpose. January and February will feature Mink’s lushly worked abstract expressionist paintings while future months will highlight other local artists.

Located at the other side of the Commons from the SOAG, the Ink Shop Printmaking Center (330 East State St.) is another gem of the downtown art world. Like their peers across State Street, the Shop is member-run; unlike them peers across State Street they are also a working studio, affording space and equipment to select group of print artists as well as offering a rotating schedule of classes accessible to all. Owing to the multiple and lightweight nature of the printmaking as well as an ambitious history of networking, exhibits at the Shop have a more cosmopolitan quality, incorporating national and international as well as regional and member work.

Next month will feature the latest installment of “I See You (IC/CU),” which highlights the Shop’s important connections with local academia. Member Gregory Page is an instructor at Cornell University while Pamela Drix and Patricia Hunsinger teach at Ithaca College. “See You” highlights student printmaking and if past years are any indication the work will be unusually strong.

Located in Center Ithaca, the Community Arts Partnership’s CAP (171 East State St.) is another anchor of the downtown scene. Next month the space will feature “To Walk Invisible: Mastering the Cultural Code from African American Textiles from The Middle Passage to The Mims Family,” a selection of colorful quilts by local fiber artist Leanora Erica Mims. Inclusion of “craft” as well as more traditional fine art mediums is characteristic of the gallery, which is run by Tompkins County’s arts council.

All in all, it’s a lively scene as well as a useful way of keeping track of local art in all its engaging diversity and often impressive quality.

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