First Friday Art Walk in Fairhope also offers music, food and fellowship (GUIDE TO JULY 5 ART WALK)

By Kasey Hullett/Courier Correspondent
Posted 7/5/13

FAIRHOPE, Alabama—The sun is shining radiantly over the bay and thus a Friday is nearing its end—or is it?

At the Eastern Shore Art Center the staff prepares for one of the busiest nights of each month. The merchants are opening their doors, …

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First Friday Art Walk in Fairhope also offers music, food and fellowship (GUIDE TO JULY 5 ART WALK)


FAIRHOPE, Alabama—The sun is shining radiantly over the bay and thus a Friday is nearing its end—or is it?

At the Eastern Shore Art Center the staff prepares for one of the busiest nights of each month. The merchants are opening their doors, pouring wine, and serving hors d'oeuvres for the upcoming crowd. The restaurants are stocking up and preparing every table for a meal. The musicians get ready by opening their guitar cases and testing the old “one-two” on the microphones. The artists arrange the easels and wet their brushes. An author sits himself at a table and stockpiles enough pens to sign books until his hand cramps. This day is only beginning as Fairhope prepares itself for another First Friday Art Walk.

How it started

In 2000, Robin Fitzhugh, then director of ESAC, continued the tradition of an art night on Sunday when she first started her job. A year later, however, a meeting would occur between the ESAC and Gulf Artspace to discuss a joining of groups for art night.

After discussion in the old pecan warehouse, where the Fairhope library stands now, it was decided to move art night to Friday.

“Within three months of going to Friday night, we were over 500 in attendance every month,” Fitzhugh said. First Friday Art Walk caused “a significant increase in art sales and memberships when the community became more aware of all the activities of the Art Center,” she said. “Art Walk also helped ESAC attract quality artists for exhibitions when they became aware of the exposure their art would receive.”

The final piece of this event puzzle was the participation of the downtown area merchants. Fitzhugh would complete it by going to a few retail galleries and invite them to participate. Then slowly, other stores jumped on board.

Today, the event has evolved even further. Wine, pastries, and art spread from its hearth at the ESAC to the shops of downtown Fairhope.

The merchants then transformed the first Friday of the month to what the current director of ESAC, Kate Fisher, calls a “jumping (off) event.” That “leaping” should continue, according to some local business owners, who claim the event is full of untapped prospects—and hope to include more music on the streets in the downtown area during Art Walk.

What it is

The Art Walk starts at the Eastern Shore Art Center and travels south on Section Street and then spreads out into other downtown streets where the shops of downtown Fairhope are located. Local shop owners, artists, musicians, and restaurants open their doors from 6 to 8 p.m. and showcase one of Fairhope’s treasures—art of all kinds.

Bob and Cherie Nemens of Estate Jewelers on De La Mare Street say that First Friday Art Walk is a “family friendly event. Say that you haven’t seen a friend in a while. Go to this event and you will see them there.”

Art in Fairhope is expressed in many forms at this event.

Those who attend can hear music on the street, survey the artwork, meet a local author or two, and enjoy local cuisines. This event could be an extension what the city's founders dreamed about—a community meeting together to enjoy life through their talents.

The city of Fairhope hosts the event the first Friday of every month—a unique experience where artists and locals intermingle in a laid back atmosphere.

Artworks such as intricate picturesque sunsets over Fairhope pier can be found hanging in the quaint galleries and stores. “Paint your own” art may also be offered if you have the aptitude.

The “Fairhope Float,” is a local favorite at Mr. Gene's Beans.

Music too

While finishing the float, the rhythm of music fills the air. n the Fairhope French Quarter a few shops feature handmade local trinkets and beach-themed treasures. A local musician sings older country music and tunes from the 1950s in the quarter.

Not far away during the June event, a Latin rhythm and hum of a classical guitar mean “Roman Street” band is playing, with guitarists and brothers Noah and Josh Thompson, accompanied by Dan Brett on percussion. This Latin-influenced band uses the sounds of two classical guitars to create something that is both smooth and rhythmic. Once you add the percussion, your foot begins tapping.

“I just love to see people having a good time and enjoying themselves,” Noah said during last month's event. “That’s what I like about Art Walk.”

And art, of course

For many artists, seeing their art appreciated brings a smile to their face—and artist Ann Calagaz is no exception. Calagaz, of Daphne, was convinced to take a watercolor art class by a friend, and she got hooked. Since then, her watercolors have been featured in four foreign countries, and in Paris, France.

“Interacting with people and watching them enjoy my work is priceless,” she said.

Art Walk lets her communicate her art to the community, and the community give her smiles in return. She sums up her feelings on art and inadvertently life when she said that, “I don’t like wearing the same clothes all the time. I don’t like doing the same artwork all the time. I like to paint different things and use bright colors. Every day is a new adventure.”

A fitting, filling end

Once the sun has set, the event is nearing its end. After all the walking, talking and dancing one is sure to be tired and above all—hungry.

The food in Fairhope is an art form of its own. To scratch the surface, located in Windmill Market is Sweet Olive Bakery and Juice Bar. The night of Art Walk is pizza night here. These pizzas are made with local grain and covered with locally grown toppings, which include vegetables and meat. The cheese is made by another local favorite, Panini Pete’s, and is brought over for the pizzas. Sweet Olive also features over 40 local beers.

What is uniquely Fairhopian about this restaurant is the way the chef decides what to make that day.

With locally grown produce in the market, the chef surveys what is in supply and looks to be the freshest. She gets inspired through this and comes up with the specials of the day.

“Sweet Olive gives Fairhope the option of a healthy, fresh meal,” says Maggie Lacey, Windmill Market's manager. During First Friday Art Walk, Windmill Market is one place to enjoy a healthy meal made with local ingredients, listen to a band play, and rest tired feet.

First Friday Art Walk captures the essence of Fairhope. The next Art Walk will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, July 5.

Kasey Hullett, of Fairhope, starts his sophomore year next month at the University of Alabama, where he is double-majoring in print journalism and history. This is his first bylined story. Look for more of his work in The Courier this summer.


What: First Friday Art Walk

When: 6 to 8 p.m., July 5

Where: Downtown Fairhope

Who: Galleries, shops & restaurants

A Place Remembered: 309 De La Mare Ave.

Boxwood Home & Garden: 311 De La Mare Avenue

The Cat's Meow: 395-B Fairhope Ave.

Christine Linson Gallery: 386 Fairhope Ave.

Courtyard 311: 311 Fairhope Ave. (Live Music: Midlife Crisis)

Déjà vu: 12 N. Section St.

Eastern Shore Art Center: 401 Oak St.

Fairhope Artists Gallery: 18 S. Section St.

The Fairhope French Quarter: 42 ½ S. Section St. (Live Music: Linn Wise)

Fairhope Realty Group: 11 North Section St.

The Fairhope Store: 32 S. Section St.

The Gumbo Shack: 212 ½ Fairhope Ave. (Live Music: Grady Rosten)

The Happy Olive: 314-B De La Mare Ave.

JJ Eyes: 7 S. Section St.

The Kiln Studio and Gallery: 60 N. Section St.

Lyon’s Share Custom Frame & Gallery: 330 De La Mare Ave.

McSharry's Irish Pub: 101 N. Bancroft St. (Music: DJ)

Metal Benders: 314 De La Mare Ave.

The Nall Foundation & Studio: 414 Equality St.

Page & Palette: 32 S. Section St.

Patina Gallery: 19 N. Church St.

Pinzone's Italian Downtown: 312 Fairhope Ave. (Live Music: John Cochran)

Private Gallery: 218 Fairhope Ave.

R Bistro & Pastry: 334 Fairhope Ave.

The Ravenite Pizzeria: 102 N. Section St. (Music: DJ Parker King)

Red or White Wine: 323 De La Mare Ave.

Simply Divine LLC: 319 Fairhope Ave.

Tallulah's Gallery & Unique Gifts: 58 S. Section St.

Windmill Market: 85 N. Bancroft St. (Live Music: Stag Nation)

Editor's Note: We appreciate the assistance of the Eastern Shore Art Center, Downtown Fairhope Business Association and city of Fairhope in compiling this list of participating businesses. To have your business included in next month's Guide to Art Walk, send an email to, or call The Courier at 251-928-2321.