First Friday Art Walk promotes quality of life in Topeka

Rundown Downtown The Downtown Design project is looking for input on how best to renovate downtown Topeka. They have opened an office space downtown what is open to the public and specifically devised to address the downtown renovation.

Rundown Downtown The Downtown Design project is looking for input on how best to renovate downtown Topeka. They have opened an office space downtown what is open to the public and specifically devised to address the downtown renovation.

Cindy Rose / Washburn Review

The First Friday Art Walk is a showcase for Topeka artists at the various locations open for the event around the city on the first Friday of every month.

Most venues are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and also have a variety of refreshments and entertainment free to the public.  Large, new easy-to-read maps are scheduled to be made available at all the venues during the March First Friday event.

Much of the artwork is affordable for just about anyone who would like to own a piece of original art.

“Even with the economy the way it is, we’ve had a lot of support,” said Lois Van Liew, an artist at the 831 Gallery in the NOTO art district, located at 831 N. Kansas Ave.

Van Liew said that many visitors of the galleries return to see artwork that was in progress the last time they were on the art walk, to see how it has evolved or how it is in its end result.  She says the artists receive numerous comments from the public and appreciate the feedback and conversations about their art.

For the First Friday in March, Van Liew will have paper and “Prismacolor” pencils set up for visitors to try.

“People are always curious about what it is,” said Van Liew.  “They are kind of the Cadillac of colored pencils. This grew out of some of the questions that we have.  We get a lot of artists coming through and they don’t know what it is or how to use it.”

Barbara Waterman-Peters opened Studio 831 a little more than a year ago.  It was the first studio to open in the NOTO art district.  Opening with just three artists then, eight artists are now stationed at the studio.  Today, there are several businesses open in the NOTO district, and it appears to be growing rapidly with all the interest it has garnered not only from the public, but from other artists themselves.

“So many wonderful people are coming in with good ideas and it’s certainly becoming an interesting, enhancing thing to Topeka,” said Waterman-Peters.  “We wanted to be thought of as part of the overall wonderful things that Topeka has to offer.  You know, we’re not thinking of it as an autonomous thing.  It’s one more jewel in the crown that is Topeka.”

Companies around Topeka are starting to feel the same way, and are doing what they can to help the development of NOTO, and the First Friday Art Walk.

“Heartland Visioning found out that people in Topeka felt very strongly about the quality of life,” said Hi Stockwell, an artist at the 831 Gallery. “The NOTO project grew out of that.  We feel good about being a part of it.  We have things here in Topeka I think people should be pleased and proud of.”

New artist Alex Lancaster will be exhibiting his artwork for the first time at the March Art Walk.  Lancaster is a free-hand airbrush artist who has joined artist Shelly Bedsaul’s Foole’s Dream Studio located at 833½ N. Kansas Ave.