I’m always excited to find our city supporting local artists, like you’ll find at 23rd Street Artists Market. It’s even cooler when it’s a whole neighborhood affair.
First Thursday Is About Community
For several years now, businesses of all sizes have been congregating on South Congress Ave. for a monthly event called First Thursday. You can probably guess when this event takes place. Yes, the first Thursday of every month.
It is a neighborhood affair. The businesses up and down South Congress stay open late, many until about 10 PM. The bars in the area are known to offer drink specials for the monthly gathering, and parking areas and lot spaces are opened for artists to set up tents and sell their wares.
As you stroll along South Congress during First Thursday, you’ll come across numerous groupings of artisans. When I visited for August’s event, there were some main gatherings along the stretch between Gibson and Mary.
- Starting with the lot adjacent to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store…
- …The artists cross Congress and plant themselves in the parking area between Guero’s and their outdoor area.
- Across the street, The Church on Congress Avenue even got into the mix with music, face painting and prayer for those needing spiritual support.
- Going further down the Avenue, the final artist area was next door to South Congress Books. This final location is open to artists every Saturday.
Not all artists are located in these areas on First Thursday. Up and down the street, on both sides, people sell their homemade goods, play music and create art pieces on site. It’s a festive environment, to say the least.
First Thursday Highlights
So what will you find from First Thursday artisans? Custom made jewelry, paintings, self-published books, larger art pieces, leather goods, t-shirts, and just about anything else you can imagine. I came across several vendors who are worth checking out.
The husband and wife team of Cliff and London Damron make some of the coolest t-shirts and one-of-a-kind paintings I’ve seen. I first saw their art at ROT Rally last year. I can’t quite describe their style. I mean, what do you call a painting of Marilyn Monroe with Dia de los Muertos paint? Punk rock? Rockabilly? Psychobilly?
London told me that if you buy a painting from them, you buy the only print. The Damrons have been attending First Thursday for so long, they were given permission to set up a large double booth next to Gueuro’s. In November 2014, they plan to open a gallery at 10209 FM 812.
Gear Master Designs
I found Michael Dodson’s tent in a prime frontage spot in the lot next to South Congress Books. He’s a regular at that location on Saturdays and has been participating in First Thursday for two years.
I was drawn to the small details of his pieces. His jewelry is carefully made out of watch gears set in resin. Michael proudly told me each piece is unique and none have ever been duplicated.
Diamonds Are Evil
Michael Murphy of Diamonds Are Evil also established a fine frontage space in the same lot as Dodson. Murphy has developed an anti-diamond approach to jewelry making by laser cutting paper thin pieces of wood.
One particular necklace on display featured several diamond shaped pieces of wood in a design that created a 3D effect. His earrings and bracelets were equally impressive. I don’t often see jewelry made of wood. It had a warmth to it.
I bumped into Edgar Mireles, owner of Amerxican, when I came across a booth with a bunch of t-shirts featuring a man’s face in a lucha libre mask and a cowboy hat. I liked the design and dug the unifying message it communicated.
As I spoke with Mireles, I learned that it was his first time at First Thursday. He told me the shirt and associated sticker are the first items created by his startup company.
Get Out to First Thursday
Here’s what I think you should do. On the next First Thursday, go to South Congress Ave. a little early. Once you get there and get a good parking spot, walk to Guero’s for some queso and a drink. Unwind a bit before heading out into the world. See what First Thursday treasures you can find for yourself or that special so-and-so. Then come back here and let me know what you discovered!
Who is your favorite local artist or craftsman?