WHAT WE DO
First Friday is produced by Whirlygig, Inc., a Nevada
non-profit arts organization founded in October 2002. First Friday
has grown from 300 attendees in 2002 to today’s monthly attendance
of 5-10,000. The event now encompasses more than 20 city blocks with
five blocks closed to vehicular traffic to create a pedestrian area
for the outdoor festivities. This grassroots community festival has
become “Las Vegas’ favorite community art event” with gallery
hopping, free exhibition spaces for artists, live entertainment,
street entertainers, shopping food, beverages, and more. More than
80 galleries, restaurants and retail businesses work together to
make the First Friday experience unique to the Las Vegas downtown
arts district. Volunteers currently jury the art, work the
information tables, set up and tear down parts of the event, place
the trolley signs, coordinate the trolley guides, and sell soda and
water to benefit First Friday. As Mayor
Oscar Goodman says, “First Friday is the best thing that has ever
happened to Las Vegas.”
Downtown Arts InformationWhirlygig provides a clearinghouse of information about the downtown arts community through its websites (whirlygiglasvegas.org and firstfriday-lasvegas.org) to support continued growth of the Las Vegas arts community
Whirlygig actively participates in furthering the revitalization of downtown Las Vegas. First Friday played and continues to play a key role in bringing galleries, artists, and Las Vegans to the downtown arts district. Whirlygig has begun developing partnerships to buy historic buildings in the area, turning them into art studios for lease and currently is a partial owner of the Commerce Street Studios—responsible for their preservation and maintenance. Whirlygig remains a key voice for art and artists in the discussion about urban use and planning in downtown Las Vegas.
First Friday Host Sponsor
The Whirlygig Board works closely with the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, the host sponsor of the First Friday event. While the City of Las Vegas continues to provide much-needed infrastructure, coordination and consulting support to the growing event, more of the event hard costs are being borne by Whirlygig Inc.—and individual, corporate and business donations are needed more than ever! (The City of Las Vegas sponsors the event 6x per year and its sponsorship does not even cover all the costs involved with those six months. We need your help!
Whirlygig Board of Directors
Whirlygig’s Board is made up of 7 community leaders. They offer their time and expertise to help Whirlygig and its programs, including First Friday, grow and prosper.
Board of Directors Officers
Owner, The Funk House
Board Vice President
Owner, Arin Contemporary Art
Board President, The 18b Las Vegas Arts District Neighborhood Association
Suzanne Hackett Morgan
Founder of Goldwell Open Air Museum
Board of Directors
Chief Executive Officer, Cherry Development
First Friday Advisory Committee
The First Friday Advisory Committee meets quarterly
to address First Friday-related issues and concerns. The Committee
is made up of representatives from Whirlygig, the City of Las Vegas
Office of Cultural Affairs, the arts community (artists and business
people), Clark County Parks and Recreation Cultural Affairs
Division, and the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.
Downtown Galleries, Businesses and Artists
We also want to acknowledge all the artists and business folks in the 18b Las Vegas Arts District and surrounding neighborhoods who participate in the event each month. They provide downtown visitors with new things to see, do and experience every day and also each First Friday. Please review the map at www.firstfriday-lasvegas.org and you might discover a new gallery, shop or area to explore.
We want to thank all our sponsors. They not only help
keep the event running financially but also add their own touches of
fun and excitement to the celebration. Again, our website’s
“Sponsors” section links to all their websites. So please go see
Our Friends of First Friday membership group is going strong, helping support the event, while also getting discounts and perks to our participating and friendly businesses. Please check out http://www.firstfriday-lasvegas.org/foff.html to see how you can join. We’re planning a few special things to do this year for our very Best Friends. And we’re hoping that many more individuals become Contributing Friends. We need your support!
WHIRLYGIG & FIRST FRIDAY HISTORY
Whirlygig, Inc., was formed in 2002 to oversee the production of First Friday. The Board President, Cindy Funkhouser, the Vice President, Julie Brewer, and the Secretary/Treasurer, Naomi Arin, are the three founders of this popular arts event.
First Friday was the brainchild of Cindy Funkhouser after she visited a similar event in Portland, Oregon. She convinced her other Board officers that it was worth trying in Las Vegas. The initial grassroots event attracted around 300 visitors with 10 arts and entertainment participants. The event has taken place every month since October 4, 2002.
Since then, the festival has remained community-based and has attracted an every-increasing group of attendees. In 2004 the three founders were named “Local Heroes” by CityLife.
Today the event attracts around 5-10,000 visitors on
with 80 indoor arts, food, drink and shop venues opening their doors
and 50 outdoor artists, artisans and entertainers providing outside
fun. First Friday has become Las Vegans’ favorite art
event and is continually named the “best community event,” or
the “best arts event” and is listed as one of the top “things every
Las Vegan must do” by readers and editors of leading Las Vegas
publications, including Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas Review
Journal and Las Vegas Life.
Our Founder, Cindy Funkhouser
Cindy Funkhouser’s vision, passion, and perseverance has brought First Friday from a small grassroots festival to the multi-faceted art event it is today, featuring art both inside the many area galleries, outside in the two festival areas, food and beverages galore, street entertainers, a chalk drawing area, and just plain fun for all ages.
Cindy has always collected things and was able to turn her obsession into a thriving business, her antique store, The Funk House—constructed, fittingly, in 1958. Cindy has always supported local artists, first by displaying art in her store, then by becoming the driving force behind First Friday, providing Las Vegas with a monthly gathering place for art and people watching. Having grown up in Iowa, she moved to Las Vegas in 1984 and settled in—she’s a person who believes in making her neighborhood a better place to live and is an advocate of making the downtown arts district a thriving place to live and work. Cindy’s determination and hard work kept First Friday going and growing over the past 6 years.
Co-Founders Julie Brewer and Naomi Arin
Julie Brewer passed away in August, 2007. Though she will be dearly missed, the role that she played in crafting First Friday’s first five years will not be forgotten. Former owner of the now-closed Enigma Café on South Fourth Street, Julie suggested that Cindy regularly present artwork showings in The Funk House and Cindy started doing just that. Then, when Cindy talked with Julie about starting up First Friday, Julie initially tried to discourage her, saying what a daunting task an art festival would be. However, nothing could stop Cindy—and soon Julie became one of the three founders of the event and an important First Friday advocate.
Naomi Arin is a Las Vegas gallery owner who is creating a place in Vegas, Naomi Arin Contemporary Art (formerly Dust Gallery), to not only see contemporary art but also to represent the strain of Vegas contemporary art to a national audience. She embraces the idea of a gallery as not simply a place to sell art but to be active in the gallery's traditional role as an educator and tastemaker. Naomi, formerly a practicing attorney, returned to Las Vegas in 2001 after spending five years writing grants at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. She is a strong advocate for the arts and has been invaluable in making First Friday such a success.
OUR MAILING ADDRESS
FIRST FRIDAY PUBLIC INFORMATION LINE
This is a voicemail system. Please leave us a message and someone will return your call as quickly as possible (line is monitored Monday through Friday).
FIRST FRIDAY & WHIRLYGIG WEBSITES
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information about Whirlygig and its programs, including sponsorships and donations, please email Cindy Funkhouser, President of Whirlygig Inc. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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