San Pedro First Thursday returns with a renewed artistic vibe – Daily Breeze

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San Pedro’s popular downtown First Thursday ArtWalk has been redesigned and will return next month.

The popular monthly event, which went dark last year amid the coronavirus, will restart from 6pm to 9pm on August 5th.

The first Thursday, nearly a quarter of a century old, was one of many similar open house festivals used elsewhere to bring residents back to the quaint shopping districts they had largely given up during the giant malls era.

“Other cities made the same plans to get people to return to downtown,” said Linda Grimes, executive director of the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District.

In San Pedro, the year-round event is now also seen as enthusiasm for the nearby waterfront and the rapidly changing inner city landscape, as more and more artists have moved into newly designed studios and galleries. San Pedro’s newly embossed Little Italy will also flow into the upcoming celebrations.

After the event closed with the March 2020 pandemic beginning, the San Pedro Arts and Cultural District surveyed local artists and business owners to come up with ideas to freshen up the 24-year-old ArtWalk, which has seen its share of upward trends fresh and Lows over the years.

Unsurprisingly, one of the hot topics was centered around the food trucks that have been populating the event lately.

As with parking in downtown San Pedro, “everyone has an opinion” on food trucks on the first Thursday, Grimes said.

The trucks arrived on First Thursday ten years ago and helped draw new visitors to the sometimes languishing monthly events in the hidden port city on the extreme southern tip of the city of Los Angeles.

People loved the food trucks. Or they hated her.

Some restaurants saw them as competition.

But they also attracted crowds of new people who followed their favorite gourmet trucks wherever they went, adding to the appeal of First Thursday Street and attracting some people who have never been to port.

Now that the food trucks are a first Thursday staple, discussions turned to an overhaul to bring more attention to the artists, restaurants and shops, moving the trucks from the main blocks of Sixth and Seventh Streets to the perimeter in the Mesa Street near to relocate Fifth and Eighth Streets.

Outdoor entertainment draws a crowd in downtown San Pedro during a first Thursday before the pandemic. (Courtesy photo by Dianne Gowder)

While individual companies can still invite a food truck to park in front of their facilities, there are plans to try the new curated food truck position for at least a few months, Amy Eriksen, director of the Angels Gate Cultural Center told many of the Zoom redesign talks.

“We can always change it and go back to what it was before,” she said.

Art tours of downtown art galleries and studios have always been a part of First Thursdays, but art had lost some of its centrality to the event over the years.

“The art walk (in discussions) was always brought up, but I was always told that this (first Thursday) was an organic event,” said Eriksen. “In stakeholder meetings, people said they didn’t want a carnival or circus atmosphere, they wanted an art walk.”

The first Thursday, she said, generally doesn’t attract art buyers, which the redesigned event also wants to address with more marketing in art publications.

“People like to look at the art and like the wine and cheese that you have out there, but then they keep walking,” Eriksen said of the typical First Thursday gallery browser.

But, she said, both the festive atmosphere and a serious focus on art are achievable.

“I think you can have both,” she said.

The addition of more outdoor dining platforms created as a result of the closure of the pandemic over the past 17 months will also create a new and festive atmosphere while adding more dining options, according to Eriksen.

Among other highlights on the opening evening:

  • Several galleries will be open, including Michael Stearns Studio, MS Gallery, and Gallery Azul;
  • The ArtWalk tour starts at 6:00 pm from Sirens Java & Tea, 402 W. Seventh St .; and
  • Live music with the US 99 Band will perform on Sixth and Mesa Streets at 6:00 p.m.

According to the latest LA County protocols, face masks are required for all indoor areas.

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