First Friday set to raise money for Museum of Art

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa may not have a building for its art collection, but Museum of Art staff members are finding ways to remain a part of the Iowa City community.

The inaugural First Friday, a social event for art enthusiasts, will take place at 5 p.m. today at the hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St., and Formosa, 221 E. College St.

“First Friday” is a nod to the event’s timing and frequency — the first Friday of every month. Organizers said the function is intended to remind community members the museum still exists.

“[This event is] to let people know we’re still around, even though we don’t have a physical building,” said UI senior Meghan Centers, as marketing and media assistant for the UI Museum of Art. “[People] associate the museum with a physical building.”

The theme for tonight’s exhibit is “Where ART thou.”

“People think that because there is no museum, it’s over,” said Anna Moyers Stone, the head of the six-person committee that planned First Fridays.

The Iowa City native said she hopes today’s event will help keep the community connected to the local art scene. She said Iowa City suffered a “loss” when the 2008 flood put the UI Art Museum out of commission.

“Iowa City has that energy and needs a group like this to keep the energy up,” said Museum of Art Director Sean O’Harrow. “This First Friday is a way of tapping into that. It’s appealing to a more youthful crowd.”

Stone along with her committee, which also included downtown business owner Catherine Champion, modeled First Fridays after other art museums’ programs, which keep their doors open late into the night for patrons.

The Minneapolis Art Institute began a program in 2007 called Third Thursdays — targeting young adults — a monthly event that has new displays and exhibitions each month.

Anne-Marie Wagener, the director of press and public relations at the Minneapolis Art Institute, said Third Thursdays was created to attract a younger audience that does not have time to visit the museum during its regular operating hours.

“We noticed a lot of museums nationally would stay open late once a week,” she said. “We had to pick a night just for people who wanted to mingle with other people.”

Since its inception four years ago, Third Thursdays’ attendance has continued to grow. The museum saw night visitors blossom to 23,000 people in 2010 — an increase of 10,000 over the previous year.

O’Harrow said they’ll put “an Iowa City spin” on the event.

“Our event is more humorous, more informal, and, perhaps, potentially more raucus,” he said.

He also said he hopes for a large student turnout. And although the event won’t include art on display, it’s ideal for students who love art, he said.

“All students should make sure they do their homework on time,” he said. “Then they’re allowed to come out and have a party.”

DI reporter Hayley Brucecontributed to this report.

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