First Fridays -- soirées in the Crossroads, when art galleries open new exhibitions on the first Friday of every month -- might be responsible for everything Kansas City has going for it. A downtown housing boom? We doubt Overland Park empty nesters would be clamoring for lofts in the Western Auto building if they hadn't rediscovered the urban core during wine-sipping, art-collecting forays. Downtown revitalization? Sure, politicos, bankers and real estate moguls are championing downtown -- but would they have had the courage if a few gallery owners hadn't led the way, luring thousands of people with paintings and sculptures and a few bottles of chablis?
Last fall we declared First Fridays the "Best Place to Meet the Opposite Sex" (The Best of Kansas City, October 17, 2002). Apparently there's such a thing as too much love. Last week -- just as our thoughts were turning to Friday night -- we learned that several galleries were going dry because dipsos had messed with the artwork.
The only thing more chilling than the thought of First Friday without alcohol was the weather by the end of the week. The wet wind felt like a harbinger of disaster.
We set out into the gloomy night and were surprised to discover that The Cube hasn't served alcohol for a year, since some inebriated kid broke something. (The Cube currently has porcelain sculptures of military guys riding tanks while wearing gas masks and cowboy boots.) A couple of other galleries have been saying no, too. How could we not have noticed? Perhaps because, unlike many revelers, we were actually appreciating the art -- which is sort of the point of First Fridays.
Nonetheless, we were euphoric upon discovering Boulevard Beer at the Blue Gallery, wine at the Dolphin and sangria at Grand Arts! We were giddy when we saw the Boulevard banner at the Arts Incubator, which was unveiling its fabulous urban trash cans. (Attention fiberglass-cow lovers: Now that's a public art project.)
Everybody seemed to be having a wonderful time, wandering the streets with plastic cups full of yellowish liquid like it was St. Patrick's Day for aesthetes. But there's a lesson in all of this, First Friday lovers. If you see 99 bottles of beer on the wall, don't touch them!