Friday night, early spring. The sun is on its way down, filtering everything with golden-pink light and the feeling of possibility. The air is warm and cool all at once, perfect for strolling, ducking in and out of storefronts and bars. On a whim I decide—why not?—I’ll swipe on some lipstick, grab a pal, and make my way down to The Village of West Greenville, where First Friday is kicking off. It’s one of the best things about our town, in my opinion. On the initial Friday of every month from 6–9pm, art galleries open their doors and artists, their studios. For a Greenville native like me, these nights remind me why I love this town—the creative energy is palpable.
This all seems like a distant memory, of course. Pandemic life and, frankly, parent life has pitched barriers between me and my once-innate tendency toward a last-minute First Friday jaunt. So, when the scarce chance arises to strap on a mask and stomp through galleries—well, the fruit tastes sweeter and the scene seems fresher. A rare night like tonight calls for a strategy.
My evening begins at Art & Light Gallery. Set in a charming, white mill house, owner, Teresa Roche, and her team offer a varying mix of more than 30 artists from near and far. After traversing Art & Light’s wooden floors for a quarter of an hour, it’s time to move on. A short drive west on Pendleton Street takes me to the public parking next to Pace Jewelers. From there, I foot it up to the studio home of Sunny Mullarkey, a painter and printmaker whose works feel like what a cicada-song sounds like—vibrant, alive, curiously Southern. Sunny works on any scale, from mural-big to magnet-small, so it’s easy to leave her studio with a lino print moth in hand.
By now, the sun is fading. I don my jacket for the walk down to potter Darin Gehrke’s gallery and shop. Darin’s ceramic works are created for human interaction; his serveware is as sculptural as it is functional, and his ornamental pieces still exude the needfulness of utility. Not to mention, Darin’s shop is stuffed with other handmade homegoods—pillows, textiles, jewelry—lined warmly against the exposed brick walls of his shop. From there, it’s across the street and up the hill to the Bank Building Studios to find Traci Martin, an artist who is fairly new to the Greenville scene. Traci’s lifelike charcoal works are breathtaking, and seeing them in the flesh will leave you baffled at their photorealism. Stepping out of Traci’s studio, the sky is dark, and I decide to hike down Lois Avenue to Railside Studios, where longtime standouts like Mark Mulfinger make their studio home.
The three hours that First Fridays in The Village spans feels like a blip in this long, looming era. Still, those hours are enough to fill me with color and energy from my hometown community’s compelling and vitalizing creatives.
Studios and galleries throughout Greenville open on the first Friday of each month. For more, visit greenvillearts.com/portfolio_category/firstfridays.
First Friday Pit stops in the Village of West Greenville
The Village Grind
It’s in the name—you can’t come to The Village and not visit The Grind. Grab a Lavender Honey Latte for the art crawl. 1258 Pendleton St.
There’s an unspoken rule that if you leave the house after 6pm, you have to have a cheese board. And The Anchorage? Well, I challenge you to find a more delectable example.
1586 Perry Ave.
These no-holds-barred cocktails will have you ready to soak in some art. If bartender Mills is there, get him to make you a Piña Colada. Just trust me. 1269 Pendleton St.
Pizza fit for a night of art-gawking. These Neapolitan-style wood-fired pies, and other Italian-inspired bites, are worthy of a “chef’s kiss.”
1254 Pendleton St.
Tucked behind Pendleton Street just off Perry Avenue, this multi-use site is home to LaRue Fine Chocolates, Carolina Bauernhaus, Unlocked Coffee, and more. Set aside at least an hour to explore its offerings. 556 Perry Ave.