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Downtown Miami's New First Friday Art Walk: Free Culture by Land and by Sea

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Say what you will about overcrowding in Wynwood, but you can't deny that the neighborhood's successful transformation into a trendy community hasn't made an impact on the rest of Miami. Almost every district of the city has attempted to follow in Wynwood's footsteps by setting up an art walk, but none has succeeded quite like Second Saturday.

All of that might change in the next month, as downtown Miami launches its own bid to become the next prophesied cultural sanctuary in the city.

International Fine Art Expositions, founder of Art Miami and the organization behind Miami International Art Fair, partnered with the arts and cultural community of downtown Miami to put on First Friday Art Walk.

See also:
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- Everybody Sweat Now: MIA's Seafair Expo Sends Us Overboard
- Miami Art Fair International: Christian Slater, Light Sculptures, and More Floating Culture

"It will attract everyone from collectors and financial executive professionals to young creatives and families. The upcoming First Fridays event will present a wide variety of activities, including artist receptions, art talks, film screenings, and musical entertainment," Lee Ann Lester, organizer of IFAE, says of what's to come.

Lester and her husband, David, pioneered the art-fair market more than 20 years ago. They've established innovative events in Miami, Palm Beach, Naples, Sarasota, Hong Kong, London, and Dallas, and nearly every project attached to their name is a success.

Inaugurating First Friday this April, IFAE isn't messing around. Although it took only two weeks to plan, the organization has once again outdone itself. More than 150 artists of all styles and mediums will exhibit their work in 15 venues, all conveniently located two blocks from the Miami Trolley and Metromover. Parking will be available at each venue. Admission to the exhibitions and trolley transportation will be free. Expect to see familiar art heavy-hitters such as MDC Museum of Art, Dimensions Variable, TM Sisters, Sculptures in the Park at Bayfront, Art in Public Places, Bas Fisher Invitational, and a number of other well-respected organizations that helped launch the hype for Miami's art scene on an international level.

"Over 70,000 residents live in downtown, and over 200,000 commuters work in the downtown-Brickell district. First Friday will allow these venues to open their doors from 6 to 10 p.m. to the community with long-awaited exhibitions and inauguration of the new additions to its arts community... Friday will provide an evening for those who work downtown to join the event," Lester says about her reasoning for choosing First Friday's location.

If First Friday is successful, IFAE could transform the "art circus" reputation of art walks like the one in Wynwood. The goal of First Friday is to foster art appreciation through careful consideration of the art viewer, collector, and artist when it comes to planning expositions. The organization's events draw thousands of people, but this reporter can verify the experience is unlike that of most art exhibitions in Miami.

Take for example IFAE's MIA Fair, held in the world's first mobile megayacht venue, a floating art gallery on the $40 million SeaFair docked at the InterContinental Miami. Attendees of First Friday will get to experience the yacht firsthand for free because the event will coincide with MIA Encore fair's debut. (Tickets normally cost $10 to $30.) Anyone who missed MIA's highly successful run in January will be given a second chance to take in some of the most cutting-edge, contemporary artworks in the world. Each Encore show features 28 carefully selected international dealers representing both emerging and established contemporary artists whose works range from photography, painting, mixed media, sculpture, jewelry, installation, and video.

"We hope First Friday will draw other talented artists and creative industries to downtown Miami. The economy desperately needs innovative businesses, and the arts community and creative industries can be one of the leaders in developing Miami as a leading global capital for innovation," Lester says.

First Friday Art Walk launches Friday, April 5, from 6 to 10 p.m and coincides with the debut of MIA Encore fair aboard the SeaFair, docked at the InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza. Admission to MIA Encore is complimentary for the duration of First Friday hours. The art walk will be held the first Friday of every month from January to June and October to December. The September art walk will be held in conjunction with DWNTWN Art Days, September 20 through 22. Call 239-949-5411.

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