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© Amanda Capasso/Flickr
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A Guide To First Friday In Philadelphia

Picture of Olivia Costanzo
Updated: 18 December 2016
Nestled between the famous Independence Mall and the historical Delaware River is the Old City district of Philadelphia. In the 1970s, this former industrial hub gave way to spacious lofts and warehouses that were transformed into artists’ studios and galleries. ‘First Friday’, a festival held every first Friday of the month, brings Old City to life by inviting artists as well as the public to come exhibit and appreciate local art.

The galleries of Old City embrace First Friday as an opportunity to welcome the public past 5pm, and without appointment. There are over 40 galleries to visit within the small square mile in between Front Street and Race Street, as well as street performances and creative demonstrations to experience. As you weave your way through the bustling crowd and sidewalk vendors of Old City, keep in mind some of our gallery reception recommendations.

Gerry Lenfest Gallery at the Center for Art in Wood

Exhibit: Wendy Maruyama: The WildLIFE Project

Maruyama’s work in The wildLIFE Project is one of charity and advocacy as well as craft. Large wooden elephant ‘masks’ held together with string dominate the exhibit in order to memorialize the effects of illegal poaching on elephant species around the world. One of the shrine-like pieces also featured as a memoriam creates a sensory experience with burning incense and a bronze bell that is struck periodically. Maruyama’s work is complemented by the work of Dorothy Gill and Dona Look’s Beyond the Trees exhibit, in which they manipulate tree bark into baskets and organic sculptures.

Hours: 5pm-9pm

The Center for Art in Wood, 141 N. 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 923 8000

Shabbos Gallery at the Old City Jewish Art Center

The mission of the Old City Jewish Art Center is to create a space where artists can express Judaism through their work, as well as engage the Jewish community outside of the synagogue. The Shabbos Gallery features new artists every month on First Friday along with its main exhibition. If you linger until the gallery closes at 9pm, you will be invited to take a seat for ‘A Taste of Shabbos.’ Every First Friday, the center’s Rabbi pulls out folding tables onto the sidewalk and provides a traditional Shabbat meal for free. Jews and non-Jews are welcome, as Rabbi Zash carefully explains Judaism’s teachings over the plate of gefilte fish.

Hours: 5pm-9pm

Old City Jewish Art Center, 119 N. 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 923 1222

Pentimenti Gallery

Exhibit: Mark Khaisman: Magnetic Fields

This contemporary gallery on Second Street provides exhibition space for new and recognized artists. This First Friday it will feature Khaisman’s work that is composed of assorted tape laid on existing images from magazines and films. He uses tape in order to play with light and the ‘idea of the temporary.’ On these works, he adheres aluminum oxide particles to create levels and texture. Another component of this exhibit is the images of Victorian silver to create juxtaposition between the temporary nature of tape and the timeless reputation of fine art.

Hours: 5pm–9pm

Pentimenti Gallery, 145 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 625 9990

Chemical Heritage Foundation

Sounds Good: How the Science of Sound Reproduction Changed Imagination

Every First Friday the CHR hosts free activities and guest speakers that cover topics from science to history, but this event will focus on performance and sound. The local Philadelphian Mechanical Theatre Company will preform Marionettes, Inc., a short play by Ray Bradbury. This performance brings the audience through the history of sound effects on the radio, and how one’s brain coordinates hearing and sight. Along with the free performance, there will also be guided tours available to explore the other CHS exhibitions that explore topics such as the History of Chemistry.

Hours: 5:45pm-6:45pm for performances. Exhibitions open before and after performances.

Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 925 2222

Millésimé & Ligne Roset

Exhibit: Paintings by Alfred Ortega

Millésimé is a modern furniture showroom and store that features pieces from contemporary living room sets to abstract art. This First Friday they will be transforming their space to exhibit paintings by Alfred Ortega, a Philadelphian artist who focuses on abstract work. His large-canvassed paintings depict figures that feature bold form and vibrant color. Millésimé is offering wine and cheese with this gallery event, so make sure to stop by in the middle of your First Friday excursion for refreshment.

Hours: 6pm-8pm

Millésimé & Linge Roset, 33 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 455 0374