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Art walk planned to explore Gainesville’s creative side
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Gainesville artist Connie Reilly paints in Gallery on the Square Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, while minding the downtown Gainesville business. - photo by Scott Rogers

A new event offers Gainesville residents a chance to explore the brushstrokes of their city.

Historic Gainesville’s first-ever art walk is slated for 4-8 p.m. Thursday, April 20, leisurely winding through the city’s midtown, downtown, Green Street and Brenau districts where encounters with local artists await beyond the doors of participating galleries and businesses.

Featuring open house-style meet-and-greets and pop-up displays, the event is free to attend, posing the opportunity to buy original art, dine in outstanding restaurants and shop in unique boutiques, according to organizers.

“The whole premise is to help businesses generate traffic and revenue into their businesses, but also give artists an opportunity to showcase their work where they may not have an opportunity to do that,” said Pamela Williams-Lime, executive director of The Arts Council in downtown Gainesville. “Partnering the arts and culture with the business community — hopefully, both will benefit from it.”

Gainesville Art Walk

When: 4-8 p.m. April 20

Where: Gainesville historic districts

How much: Free

More info:

A collaborative event spearheaded by Main Street Gainesville, the walk supplements the Vision 2030 public art block party this year, which has transitioned to a biennial event, according to Main Street manager Nicole Parham.

“We thought it might be a great time to kick off something new, something that would really initiate the art community tapping in with the local business community,” she said. “We thought this would be a really fun overlap to pull artists into our local businesses, showcase their art for a day or maybe over the weekend and just get people going in and out of businesses as well as the galleries to experience some of the great local art here in Gainesville.”

If successful, the organizers envision hosting the art walk twice a year with hopes of eventually becoming a quarterly event, depending on its reception amongst business leaders and prospective host sites.

Host galleries and businesses for the debut art walk include Quinlan Visual Arts Center, Caroline Nix Gallery, John S. Burd Performing Arts Center, Brenau University Galleries, Gallery on the Square, Gainesville Renaissance, The Arts Council, Dan Dan Studios, Purple House Gallery, Celestial Studios, Grubs Market, the Hunt Tower, Enemies of the Average and Out of the Cedar Chest.

The Gainesville Trolley will be running throughout the event to easily shuttle guests between the four main areas of the historic districts, the city said.

Positioned as a “huge family opportunity,” Williams-Lime hopes the art walk serves to open the door to engagement with the visual arts for those who may be too timid to approach its more traditional settings.

“A lot of times, if you have not had experience going into an art museum, you are hesitant about going into a formal art center of some sort,” Williams-Lime said. “Hopefully this will open the door and help people feel more comfortable. If you see it in the businesses, then you’re more likely to walk into a more formal arts organization to look at artwork.”

Such was a first-hand experience for Parham, who has held the title of Main Street manager since 2019.

“It was probably two years before I walked inside the Quinlan … and I think a lot of people are just like, ‘I don’t know about their hours, I don’t know if I can just walk into The Arts Council at any time,’” Parham said. Seeing the vast variety of art opportunities here in Gainesville and a lot of people, especially people I was around, quite often didn’t know about any of it. I’ve had a lot of one-on-one (conversations) with art leaders in the community but just getting all around a table and saying, ‘What can we do?’”

The solution marries historic preservation and economic vitality, the organizers said, allowing walkers to explore new sights and connect with longtime gems amidst an ongoing surge of growth and development.

“Do people recognize the historic downtown Gainesville for what it is and appreciate it?” Williams-Lime said. “It’s good for me, because I’m new to the community and I’m learning as I’m going through this process, so I’m sure a lot of people who’ve lived here (for some time) haven’t been in all the businesses or don’t know who the artists are or don’t know all the historic stops. The goal is also for people to recognize that arts and culture brings a lot of financial benefits to a community. This is one way of making that connection.”

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