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First Friday Art Walk turns three today

By Robert Kelly - Goss

The Daily Advance

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Three years ago today there was a bit of rain outside and something new was brewing in downtown Elizabeth City. A handful of artists and art supporters had been working on the creation of the First Friday Art Walk.

No one could be certain just how well the first event would go, especially given the rain and the fact that it was February. But it went well, so well in fact that with each successive event more and more people would head downtown to see what was up.

Natalie Peel is a co-founder and co-chair of the event. She saw the opportunity three years ago and went for it.

“Since it is popular in more urban areas, I said let’s try it here,” recalled Peel.

Artist and Red Rabbit Gallery owner Dru Thompson was in on the first Art Walk with Peel. She says she saw it as a sure hit.

“I have visited many towns that host art walks and it always was a fun event with lots of people,” said Thompson. “Elizabeth City was ripe for such an event.”

At first Art Walk involved a small handful of galleries and storefronts eager to get in on the ground floor of this fledgling event. These days you’ll see more and more people who are Art Walk rookies coming out to enjoy the festivities and the art.

“My favorite part about Art Walk is when I see people I don’t know, folks that don’t venture downtown and especially, when I was at AOA (Arts of the Albemarle), hearing visiting artists comment on how grand it is that our community comes out in droves for this monthly happening,” said Peel.

Today, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., you’ll find 11 stops on your art walk that have all worked to bring about a variety of artists, and even some outdoor entertainment in the form of a fire breather in front of the courthouse and Out in the Cold unplugged performing in front of Shay Leslie, next to Port Discover on Main Street.

Today if you start your walk on the west end of Main Street, you’ll likely begin at Spoonful of Sugar. This bakery on Road Street is attached to the Shops at the Southern Hotel, the historic building that sits on the corner of Road and Main Streets.

Inside you’re going to find artwork by Kelly Thorsby. Kelly isn’t known for her artwork, rather she’s known as the president of the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce.

And that’s what makes this event so interesting; people are exercising their right brain and getting out there, experimenting with art. Thorsby’s right brain will bring you “whimsical” things that reflect a few of her favorite things, including her shelter dog “Shaky Jake.”

Around the corner at Floor 2 Ceiling Designs, “In a galaxy far, far away,” you’ll see sci-fi inspired art by artists Josh Frink and L. E. Spry. The folks at Floor are challenging all comers to dress as their favorite sci-fi character for a shot at a best costume prize.

Hey, even spacemen like art, right?

Next door at the Pasquotank Trading Company, you can meet jewelry artist Lisa Clark. She creates sterling silver, copper and enamel pieces.

And then you can go next door again to Serenity Studio Arts. Owner and artist Courtney Birdsall is hosting artist Laura DeNunzio. She’ll be doing an artistic rubber-stamping demonstration and you can make your own cards. Outside Serenity, artist Stephen Albano will be doing a live painting demonstration.

If you stroll down Main Street somewhere along the way you’ll find the fire-eater. Check him out and then head further down Main Street to Kelly’s Color Studio.

Artist Kelly Cameron will be on hand with friend and fellow artist Hope Malott. The pair will be hosting a show they call, “Poultry in Motion.”

Both Cameron and Malott enjoy painting whimsical pastoral scenes and you can count on a lot of hens at this show.

If you cross the street you’ll find Arts of the Albemarle. It’s here that you’ll find the artwork of Barbara Wachter, John Peel and Betty Haar-Salvo.

All three are veteran AOA artists and it’s a shoe-in that you’ll find something to enjoy in the ample space.

Around the corner Two and a Half Women not only has more than 100 artists and artisans from around the region, they’re also hosting the mother/daughter

team of LuAnn Bernard and Jill Auty. The pair makes up Tangled Heart Designs.

This duo from Virginia Beach has jumped on the “up-cycling” bandwagon, taking old pieces and giving them new life.

Back on Main Street, check out Shay Leslie Boutique and artist Rebekah Brown.

We did a story about Brown’s work a number of years ago. She’s an artistic phenom who began creating intricate carvings in emu, goose and duck eggs. The incredible skill and artistry garnered the young artist a national reputation.

Around the corner, Page After Page Book Store will be more than an independent bookseller for the evening. Owner Susan Hinkle will host iron forger Mark Rossnagel.

A little further down the street, Museum of the Albemarle is getting in on the festivities, too. The museum hasn’t participated in a while but it’s taken this opportunity to present the photography of Liza Franco.

The museum will also be celebrating the re-opening of its Coast Guard exhibit.

Back on Main Street, Port Discover, the science center for kids, will be hosting its monthly Kids Art-In. The idea is for a fee, parents can drop their kids off at Port Discover for pizza, kid-friendly art and a movie.

It’s for the children of Port Discover members but you can become a member on the spot. If you’re interested, call 252-338-6117 for more information.

For more Art Walk information, go to