By Lynn Ingram | Take one pair of girlfriends, add a loose plan for an after-work Friday walk, blend in a dose of extraordinary spring weather, simmer for several hours, and behold: delicious delight emerges at every turn, especially when it coincides with Fourth Friday Gallery Night.
Before the Grand Evening Walk commenced, a bit of peckishness on both our parts, plus our shared passion for sushi made the decision to take advantage of a nearby eatery’s happy hour special an easy one. Alas, many other Wilmingtonians had the same idea, and as there was no room at the table, we opted for another spot a few blocks away.
There may not be a silver lining in every cloud, but there was certainly a gilded gift in our inability to get into our first-choice restaurant. We were scarcely half a block away when all the open later-than-usual shop doors reminded us of what we’d forgotten to remember: It’s Fourth Friday Gallery Night. That means sidewalks full of happy folks slipping into shop after shop filled with artistic delights of myriad mediums, a scattering of live musicians, and delectable selections of nibbles and libations.
And it’s all gratis. Yes, free of charge. Gallery owners stay open later, until 9 p.m. They set up tables of treats and invite the whole world to drop by to peruse their creative offerings and nosh and sip a bit in the process.
Immediately, it was clear that our sushi fix would wait, in favor of the first repast, at Crescent Moon, of lovely cheeses, delicate crackers, perfect pepperoni, and olives, spiced perfectly with something hot. Oh, yes, and that fine first glass of pinot grigio.
An art gallery on Fourth Friday Gallery Night is a feast for all the senses: Music delights the ear, carefully selected hors d’oeuvres please both the gustatory and olfactory senses, and the creations of talented individuals provide a bounteous buffet for the eye, and not infrequently, the hand, as well. Here, gently caress this exquisite hand-painted silk scarf, or marvel at the comfortably nubby character of this handwoven vest. Muse upon the heft and from-the-earth evocation of that pottery bowl, or carefully, ever so carefully, trace your fingertips along the undulations of this exquisite specimen of blown glass.
Glass! It was the glass that captivated both of us, especially the adorable variegated blue octopus, who very nearly came home with both of us (and who likely will, before summer’s end, find his way to a new address). Marveling at his wise beauty led to a revisitation of the story of Inky, the octopus who escaped his New Zealand aquarium to return to the sea. My friend followed that story with this: At another lab, the mystery of disappearing fish was solved when a hidden camera revealed that the resident octopus was letting himself out of his tank, ambling over to the fish tank (how does one amble with that many legs?), enjoying a fish dinner, and then slipping back into the tank from whence he came.
How did I live so long without knowing of the intelligence of these many-legged (or many-armed) creatures? Never mind the answer. I’m thrilled to know it now. It’s a bit more evidence that the world promises me all manner of entertainment and knowledge and surprises, if only I am awake to see and hear and taste. Of course, it was my long-time hero, mentor, guide to life well-lived, Henry David Thoreau, who first said: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.”
That wisdom becomes even more meaningful if we consider what follows: “If we are to grasp the reality of our life while we have it, we will need to wake up to our moments; otherwise, whole days, even a whole life could slip by unnoticed.”
On this Fourth Friday, no moments slip past unnoticed. At New Elements, we discovered the sensory surprise of a thin lemon cookie topped with Havarti cheese, chased by a perfect strawberry. The Story People work of Brian Andreas captivated both of us—books, small hanging pieces with inspirational quotes, and larger wooden pieces in the shapes of the Story People themselves. Our chief delight here was this: “Say yes. Whatever it is, say yes with your whole heart & as simple as it sounds, that’s all the excuse life needs to grab you by the hands & start to dance.” And then there were those earrings, simple swirls of silver that fit my ears as if they’d grown there, a part of me from the beginning of time. Ooooooh, yes.
On to Bottega, where “unique” and “surprising” are always understatements of the art everywhere (walls and bathrooms), the jewelry on display at the bar, the entertainment (Been to a poetry slam lately? How about a sewing night?), and the patrons. Part art gallery, part bar, part lyceum, complete fresh perspective, Bottega is a jewel in the crown of Princess Street. Owner Sandy Perotto has returned from sojourns afar, and her pixie face and ready wit are a balm for the seeking soul.
As we strolled, my friend asked, “Have you ever taken the trolley?” Why, no, I said, I had not—and with that, our next adventure began. We hailed the free trolley, hopeful that the operator would stop. Given our enthusiasm (Picture: Two women standing mid-street, four arms flailing as if we were practicing a high school cheer, giggles pealing all around), not stopping was probably never an option. A bit like a rolling observation deck, the trolley offered a sweet ride through downtown with a faintly voyeuristic view of gallery crawl patrons, none of whom were the slightest bit aware that we’re watching.
Something new and not there before caught my eye as we rolled down North Front Street, so I pulled the cord to stop; the trolley audio declared, “Stop Request Made.” We disembarked and made straight for the beckoning bright lights and intense energy emanating from Expo 216, where we’d missed Beth Terry’s talk on “How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too,” as well as some magical live jazz. We were just in time, though, to see startlingly beautiful and disturbing displays of whales made of plastic, fashions made of recycled material, and hip young people gathered to learn how to save the planet.
Our evening concluded at the Arts Council of Wilmington, where force-of-nature Rhonda Bellamy held court at One Show: Three Showoffs, the gorgeous and playful exhibit of work by Zero Hartline, Roslyn Hancock, and Aundrea Wilson. We wanted to capture a pair of colorful koi, perfectly Yinned and Yanged. A gorgeous giraffe and I exchanged some version of butterfly kisses, with me fluttering my own eyelashes up against hers; a kinship was born there. With champagne for sipping and cookies, veggies and hummus for nibbling, this was a fitting final feast of art and hors d’oeuvres.
Then we strolled home, in exquisite evening air, with balloons, courtesy of the Arts Council, bobbing from our wrists.
“What are you celebrating?” asked the couple of young ladies who stopped to help when my collection of brochures and flyers slipped from my hands.
The answer was easy and instant: “Oh, life. Life. We’re celebrating life.”
Their smile conveyed their instant understanding. Yes. Weren’t we all?
Want to experience your own magical Fourth Friday Gallery Night in downtown Wilmington? More than 20 downtown galleries, studios, and art spaces invite the public to celebrate creativity and talent from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the fourth Friday of each month. The next date is July 22. Many galleries are concentrated in a several block area radiating from Front Street, more are in the Brooklyn Arts District, and then, a handful of blocks south, down Surry Street, past Ted’s Fun on the River, you’ll find The Art Factory, along with the newly-opened Waterline Brewing Company. For a map of all galleries and more information, visit http://artscouncilofwilmington.org.
A native Carolinian, Lynn Ingram’s work has appeared in a number of publications including Sasee, The Charlotte Observer, Progressive Farmer, and Lake Wylie Magazine. She is a psychologist in private practice in Wilmington, and she teaches psychology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. When she’s not writing or sorting out the secrets of human nature, she gardens, dances and reads.