First Fridays engage public in the fine arts
Unblurred: First Fridays on Penn is a monthly showcase of visual and performance arts in the Penn Avenue Arts District (4800–5500 Penn Ave.). Like the Cultural Trust’s quarterly Gallery Crawl in Downtown, most Unblurred events are free and all are open to the public, with over two dozen locations to choose from.
A poetry reading at Voluto Coffee on Penn Avenue was the first stop of the night. The reading was hosted by Terrance Hayes, a National Book Award winner and Carnegie Mellon creative writing professor. Originally concerned about reading for two hours straight, Hayes opted to pull his creative writing class into the event and open up the readings to the general public. Volunteers were asked to sign up the hour before the reading, and were called forward as the night progressed. Other visitors, who came in from the rain, were entranced by the atmosphere and presentation and almost always stayed for multiple pieces. Every seat was taken, including the extra ones lining the room.
“The changing readers was particularly nice,” said sophomore chemistry major Sarah Horner, a student in one of Hayes’ classes. “It kept the pacing and style different throughout the night and that was better than hearing the same person reading the entire time.” Horner read two personal pieces as well as one she had heard from a YouTube slam poetry video. “I came out of it feeling very inspired,” she said.
In addition to the poetry reading, Assemble, a community arts and technology gallery, was hosting an exhibit called [ITAL]Open Studio[ITAL], by artist Seth Clark. Open Studio is a highly interactive exhibit that makes viewers participants in the artistic process, whether by creating a mark of their own, drawing a line representation of their height, or letting out pent-up aggression by stabbing a fork into a piece of cardboard in the wall. According to Assemble’s website, “The general public seldom has the opportunity to engage with the artist-at-work because studios are often shut off to them.” The exhibit runs through March.
Unblurred, and similar events like the Gallery Crawl, are organized to encourage the community to get involved in the arts. Many of the attendees of Friday’s Unblurred, however, were art students or were otherwise related to the event. Unblurred is hosted by the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative (PAAI). The PAAI was created in 1998 in collaboration with the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation in response to the lack of development in the area. With the help of generous funding from both local and national sources, the PAAI has been moving the avenue toward being, in its own words, “artsy-er,” “green-er,” “busi-er,” “tasty-er,” “homey-er,” and “clean-er.”
The next Unblurred art walk will take place on Friday, April 6.