Art feature: Franklinton Fridays: Big plans are in store for the burgeoning monthly event

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

As Franklinton continues to grow into its status as Columbus' next arts hub, the community's burgeoning Franklinton Fridays monthly event is poised to develop alongside it. This weekend's Franklinton Fridays figures to be the biggest yet.

The monthly event is organized by neighborhood businesses and institutions with a direct focus on highlighting the community's flourishing art scene. Franklinton Fridays are scheduled for the second Friday each month, but the initial event in September took place the third weekend to coincide with the first Independents' Day in Franklinton.

Over the last four months, participation - from visitors and businesses involved - has grown rapidly. The event now incorporates Land Grant Brewery, Rehab Tavern, Strongwater and Lundberg Industrial Arts Inc. alongside the artists of 400 West Rich and the recently opened The Vanderelli Room gallery around the corner.

"Our goal by springtime is to have at least a couple thousand people walking around Franklinton," said Walter Herrmann, a member of the organizing committee for Franklinton Fridays and mixed-media artist with a studio at 400 West Rich. "Two months ago, we had 70 [people come to 400 West Rich] and it was the only venue open for Franklinton Fridays. But we sold 17 pieces that night, which is fantastic. Last month … we had an estimated 400 people walk through. In a month's time we more than quadrupled our foot traffic, and word is spreading fast. By spring it should be second nature to come down here."

Franklinton Fridays is still developing, but a number of happenings are regularly scheduled each month. 400 West Rich holds "400 Days," a group exhibit featuring its tenants, as well as other monthly showcases in the promenade area. The Vanderelli Room will hold opening and closing receptions (as is the case for this Friday's "The Dream and the Dreamer" event) those Fridays, too.

Hangouts and local businesses are also on board for monthly commitments. Artist collective Ethical Arts has joined the committee, with the goal of bridging its studios with 400 and The Vanderelli Room by organizing street vendors and food trucks along Rich Street. Franklinton newcomer Glass Axis plans to participate in January when its new space is fully operational, and Columbus Idea Foundry will partake in the spring.

"By January we're looking to get at least two people from every involved entity so we can all work together. We don't want it to be something people from 400 are lording over," said Tona Pearson, a 400 West Rich tenant and chair of the Franklinton Fridays committee.

November's grand opening of The Vanderelli Room was a major step for both the event and furthering potential in Franklinton's art scene. While there are spaces in 400 West Rich used to display art and hold shows, having a complementary, qualified gallery was a necessary addition.

"We had about 300 people [for the opening reception of "The Dream and the Dreamer"] in November," said Alicia Vanderelli, who organizes exhibits at the gallery. "Seeing that many people come through the space - I was nervous and didn't know what to expect - really was inspiring. I feel like we're on the right track. That was the push I needed to know I'm doing the right thing."

The main reason Franklinton Fridays has experienced immediate success and growth is the ethos of the organizing committee, who're artists first and foremost. The dozen-plus-strong group is steadfast in involving all of Franklinton, with the import of artists as the driving force.

"We definitely want it to be controlled by the artist," Pearson said. "That way we have an active say in how the community forms around us, and an active role in making it better for [the artists]. I think when people have an active role in contributing they're more invested in doing better work."

Both Vanderelli and Herrmann shared Pearson's thoughts, and a group of artists offers endless opportunity to grow Franklinton Fridays.

"To see [everyone] starting to network and brainstorm together and unite as a group of artists, that's amazing," Vanderelli said. "Having all those artists and communities uniting together is really going to bring more people down."

"It's nice having a group of artists because you have all these skill sets that if put together … it always will be this creative, undulating thing where you never know what's going to happen," Herrmann said. "But we have something consistent … where you don't have to tell anybody when it is. They just know to be there."

The Vanderelli Room

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12

218 McDowell St., Franklinton

400 West Rich

6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12

400 W. Rich St., Franklinton

Don't forget about Festivus!

The day following Franklinton Fridays is 400 West Rich's annual Festivus celebration from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Now in its fourth year, the event features holiday and winter farmers markets, open studios with 400 tenants, salon-style art exhibitions in the promenade, and "400 Days" on the second floor event space.