Photos by Grace Goldman
Senior Gabrielle Perdomo is usually found in the art room working on her latest abstract acrylic paint portraits. Junior Jonah Howard sits with earbuds in at lunch to perfect his next jazz song, using his computer to layer sounds upon sounds. And Junior Liza Sanborn is busy fifth hour exploring a new passion, ceramics, pushing personalized stamps into bowls. Even though they have different interests they’ve all been caught skipping the Friday night football game to drive out to the Crossroads Art District for First Fridays.
Right outside of the snack bar YJ’s a circle has formed right in front of some speakers. Gabby’s dancing with her friends in the middle. Jonah’s standing on the outside, watching. Sanborn’s laughing at the seven-year-old kid spinning in the middle.
On the first Friday of every month, up to 10,000 Kansas Citians meet. Streets and sidewalks are filled with people walking around food trucks, live music, acrobatic performances, vendors and art exhibits. Art galleries and studios, as well as local businesses, feature both native and national artists according to Crossroads Arts District.
For Perdomo, First Fridays is a place to find other striving artists. She aspires to sell her own colorful canvas portraits just like local artist Peggy Noland has sold her unique clothing.
Perdomo has followed Noland’s transformation from an Instagram-small-business-dreamer to Los Angeles store-owner. At the First Friday in October Perdomo finally got the chance to meet Noland — and compliment Noland’s wild styled hair.
For others, like Howard, it’s a convenient place to meet up with friends who live in the KCMO area. He can always find Liam Owens and Eliza Keeney, two of his best friends who share a passion for First Fridays. And once they have met up at their regular meeting spot, YJ’s, Howard and his friends go around trying out the new food trucks and popping into any and every gallery.
One thing Howard won’t leave without seeing is a band started by his dad’s friends, Sun Dog. This surf-punk band plays on the corner outside of Barkly Averditisg Agency always seen performing in hockey masks. He finds it inspiring that these men have been able to sustain themselves through playing music all their lives, something Howard would like to do as well.
Sanborn doesn’t see as many people she knows personally. The one face she does always see, however, is the artist
whose watercolor prints she loves. It’s always “Hey good to see you” every inevitable time they run into each other, even though they don’t know each other’s name.
Perdomo, Howard and Sanborn are all tethered to First Fridays by its sense of community. Though Perdomo relates to the up-and-coming artists, Howard loves the different musicians and Liza finds joy in the everyday vendors, each appreciates the harmony of First Fridays.
“It’s all of the Kansas City people coming all together,” Perdomo said. “It’s something really cool to experience. It’s hard to explain unless you are actually there.”
DJ and MC Leonardo Gayden and his group of friends have spent the last six years at each First Friday, jamming out to hip hop, soul music, funk, and remixes of pop. They all go to their usual spot — right in front of YJ’s at 6:30 and wait for the crowds. Gayden explains how they all know each other and have been doing this since he started coming to First Fridays – around 6 years ago.
Gayden always hears stories from parents at the next First Fridays how the breakdancers have impacted their kids — they go home to practice in their rooms for hours.
Like the kids who go home and dance for the next month, students like Howard, Perdomo and Sanborn are left with memories of graffiti-filled alleyways, young artists works they connected with or strange people they met on the street asking if they want to try on wigs. They experience firsthand the pull of the Crossroads at the beginning of each month.
“I think it’s important for keeping the art scene alive in Kansas City and breathing,” Howard said. “Otherwise it would just be a bunch of really disorganized events and no one would be able to keep up with the art music and culture. First Fridays just kind of unifies everything.”
To Perdomo, the most valuable Kansas City experience anyone can have is coming out to First Fridays. As she walks around, Perdomo recognizes art students from Rockhurst, St. Teresa’s and Pembroke that
she follows on Instagram and Snapchat. Though she’s met some of them during local art programs, she wouldn’t have ever talked to them in person without those Friday nights.
“[The coolest thing is] all the random people you see there that you would have never known existed,” Perdomo said. “You realize how small of a world it is.”
While Gayden thinks it’s important to keep First
Fridays going through the word of mouth, he knows it will continue whether they are there or not.
“When you have 10 thousand people clog up the streets until 11 or 12 p.m. at night there’s no way that’s not going to keep going,” Gayden said.