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Friday, September 4, 2009

1st Friday celebrates three years

It seems impossible, but there have already been three years of 1st Fridays in Albany, and tonight's is bound to be one of the best yet. If you don't already know the drill, it is an arts walk (or shuttle ride) that runs from 5 to 9 p.m. and, though centered on Lark Street, it incorporates venues out Delaware Avenue, deep into downtown, and at a couple of key spots uptown, too. You go, meet people, hang out, drink cheap wine, and - oh, yeah - look at art.

The anniversary has prompted an expanded event, far too much for me to describe here, but it includes stuff happening as early as 11 a.m. and an after-hours music series as well. The current issue of Metroland has a big pull-out section you can check, or you can go to the 1st Friday website for more details. I'll focus on a few worthy exhibitions but, beyond that, you're on your own.

1) Assiduity - call it shameless self-promotion if you want, but I'll claim it's alphabetical. Either way, my first choice is an exhibition of 19 Albany stalwarts (myself included) at Albany Center Gallery that has taken the city's one-word motto as a theme. Essentially, assiduity means perseverance, and the gallery is proclaiming that these stubborn artists have collectively served the city with their creativity for more than 400 years. Self-promoting bloggers aside, this is a stellar lineup and a very strong show.

2) Albany Institute of History & Art - always appreciated for the best fare on 1st Friday, they're offering a champagne toast at 6 - need I say more?

3) McGreevy ProLab - this downtown venue (it's on Broadway) is sort of like Mecca for regional photographers, and they're showcasing the work of one of our favorites, Mary Spinelli. Worth a shuttle ride, for sure.

4) The National Upholstering - the best ungrammatical store name I've heard, and a sweet little spot for art, cards, and tchotchkes. This month, photographer Paul Shapiro has taken over the shop, with richly toned, handmade black-and-white prints that show a bleak but lovable America. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

5) Visions Gallery - this is uptown, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany's Pastoral Center on Main Avenue, and they are celebrating 20 years of exhibitions (as well as 400 years of the Hudson) with a big group show revisiting many of their past exhibitors. Like the ACG show, it's something of a who's who (Gail Nadeau gets special mention for being in both), and should be very good. I've seen a lot of shows here over the years and all have been of a high standard.

6) Judy Rosen Real Estate - another Lark Street venue, this is the 1st Friday home of a group of very young artists with great chops. Organized by the capable and professional Meghan Murphy, who also exhibits, this is exactly the kind of grass-roots show that gives me hope for the future. Go support the new kids on the block.

7) And speaking of grass roots, it all wouldn't be possible without Upstate Artists Guild, which is of course going all out for this event; they created it and are still its lead sponsor. Tonight, UAG's TAG! You're It! show celebrates graffiti artists, and the featured artist room will focus on Dwell and One Unit - they know I know they rock, and so should you.

One more thing: You may have heard about the fire a few weeks ago at 40 Broadway that destroyed a popular gallery run by Samson Contompasis and his brothers, Alex and Max. Samson's work is featured in a couple of venues this 1st Friday (4 Central and Spectrum 8 Theaters) and there will be a fundraiser for the gallery at Tess' Lark Tavern beginning tonight at 8. Check with Tess' for details, and please consider a contribution or a purchase.

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