Despite living in Jackson Ward, the epicenter of the arts district, I know enough not to try to eat in my neighborhood on First Friday evenings. Instead, Andrew and I decided to test uncharted waters by going to Republic before starting our gallery hopping.
For those who don't know, Republic is one of those places who opted to divide their restaurant with a door to allow for smoking and non-smoking sections. Despite an initial attempt to sit on the breathable side, it was completely full, so we settled for a table on the smokey side (and by smokey, I mean every bar patron was in full puff mode, including the cigar smokers). Our only consolation was that our table was at least in the far back on what was once the stage.
The food was...well, food. I had a really decent cup of soup of the day (a beef stew) followed by Grilled Chorizo and Ricotta canapes with sauteed onions and drizzled with balsamic reduction; essentially they were bruschetta with unnecessary frisee between the meat and cheese. Andrew had the Three Cheese Macaroni topped with Sauteed Shrimp. Enough said about the food.
Arriving back in J-Ward, our walk to Broad Street revealed plenty of parking and a surprisingly small number of attendees. Apparently Richmonders aren't willing to suffer the cold for the sake of art. At Ada Gallery, Bernard Martin's "New Hero" paintings were large-form takes on vintage comics with random elements included. They were striking, and at $8500 each pricey, but visually arresting to say the least. Ghostprint Gallery had carried over Deborah Turbeville's "Unseen Versailles "show, which I had seen last month. There was a film projection on the side of a building on Jefferson Street between Broad and Marshall, the first time I had seen that, but the temperature discouraged lingering to watch for long.
Gallery 5 was where the action was tonight with "Say Love: An Exhibition of Love and Hate." Photographs of ordinary people defining love and hate lined the walls. In the center of the room was James Robertson's sculpture of a seated figure on a bed. It was a striking centerpiece and the artist had not finished it until 5:20 today. I had a fascinating conversation with him about the installation work he is currently doing for the VMFA; unexpected moments like that are the best reason to attend First Fridays.
Obviously the police department had anticipated the light crowds because the usual traffic-directing and large police presence were absent. We did see cops on bike and foot, but they were more a part of the crowd than anything else, friendly and chatty.
I saw lots of interesting people at Gallery 5, including Tom Robinson, the G5 building's owner, who dropped to his knees to kiss my hand in greeting and what girl doesn't love that? I ran into a favorite fan of my blog with whom I enjoyed an empathetic conversation about my so-called life and then musician Julie Karr, she of the magnificent voice and throaty laugh. She and I caught up after months of not seeing each other; she was the third person this week to tell me I must go check out the magnificence of the recently reopened Cary Street Gym.
Performing live tonight at G5 were Nude Photos of Celebrities, who began with some technical difficulties and moved on to a post-punk kind of set which was quite enjoyable, sort of a wanna-be Bloc Party sound. The crowd was large and into it, but then a free show should always be worth a listen.
You'd think that after all the walking around we did, we might have lost the smokey scent we acquired at Republic, but that wasn't the case. Honestly, though, we aren't Republic's target customers so we'll know to leave our seats to those who are. In any case, they did provide sustenance for the remainder of a fine evening of art and music. And that's what the evening was really about anyway.