Downtown Jacksonville's Art Walk, commonly called the First Wednesday Art Walk, is held the first Wednesday of each month from 5 to 9 p.m., rain or shine. The event started in 2003, created by Downtown Vision, Inc., and has grown considerably over the years. Less than a dozen venues participated in those early Art Walks, but today, nearly 40 local businesses do.
Art Walk attracts dozens of local artists and musicians, and sees thousands of visitors month in and month out. Event attendance, including parking (after 6 p.m.), is free thanks to partnerships with the city of Jacksonville and several area lots.
Most of downtown's core is difficult to access during the event's peak hours; getting there early is a must if you want to catch all the attractions and avoid traffic.
Downtown Vision, Inc. recommends starting in Hemming Plaza and catching live local music and other performances (belly dancers frequently perform). The historic plaza, well known as the city's first public park, is also the site of the majority of local artists and vendors.
MOCA, Jacksonville's contemporary arts museum, participates in Art Walk, usually showcasing several special exhibits. Museum attendance during Art Walk is free.
A quick walk around the block will reveal several other participating venues, including the historic Snyder Memorial Church and The Carling, both of which usually showcase galleries or host live performances.
The Jacksonville Landing is also rockin' for Art Walk, often featuring bands and other performers. Area restaurants and bars generally offer food and drink specials for the monthly event as well.
Artists and musicians interested in showcasing their talents during Art Walk must complete a simple application. There is no fee for participants, although each applicant must go through an approval process to ensure their work is up to snuff.
Numerous Downtown Ambassadors are available during Art Walk, passing out event maps and information for the current event.
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Alcohol is served during Art Walk, but due to the city's open container laws, all alcoholic drinks must be kept on venue premises. Visitors not adhering to this policy will be subject to the city's usual punishment.
Each Art Walk caters to a specific theme. Past themes have included "Making Music," "Hispanic Heritage" and "Art Shook Up (Dance)." The themes generally revolve around the event's special feature, which has ranged from specific artist showcases to musical performances, and much more.
Dressing up for Art Walk is optional. It's not uncommon to visitors and performers in costumes and makeup alongside men and women dressed in more formal attire. A group dressed as Stormtroopers from Star Wars has been making the rounds for a couple of years now, and often poses in pictures.
Notable locals often participate in Art Walk, including businessmen, local celebrities and politicians -- perhaps most famously Jacksonville mayor Alvin Brown during his May 2011 campaign.