Get the Most Out of Your Third Friday Durham

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Experience the best parts of this monthly event that invites the community to explore local galleries, performances and more

third friday durham
Stefanie Etienne peruses art during a closing reception for artist Ippy Patterson at PS118 Gallery.

By Chris Vitiello, aka The Poetry Fox | Photo By Ricky Garni

It’s finally Friday – shut down Zoom and turn your eyes to the world again! Friday night should be about the sidewalk, the cocktail glass, an entrée – and a wealth of art all around downtown. 

Gallery hopping on Third Friday Durham art nights is the most enjoyable civic duty. Take in brightly colored activist art, earnest landscape drawings, abstract portraits and stunning photographs. In short, you will see a little bit of everything and be guaranteed to see both something you like and something you completely didn’t expect. 

You can pay close attention to the art – or not. You can do that leisurely museum walk along a wall of artworks, talking with your friend about something that happened at work or something great you accomplished recently. And you can also stop in front of one artwork, lean in and look deep, and ask your friend if they see or think something about it. You get to engage as much or as little as you want, and at your own moment-to-moment pace. 

In every gallery (and there are 15 listed on Downtown Durham Inc.’s Third Friday Durham map), you will encounter the artists themselves or the gallery people who know and work with these artists on a daily basis. You don’t have to pretend to be a connoisseur or learn a chapter of art history. These are works that were just made by people who maybe live in your neighborhood. They are works that come from your place and time. They are about you. 

“For me, there could be few things more fun than running a gallery devoted to photography,” says Roylee Duvall, who runs the all-photo gallery Through This Lens. “I’ve devoted my life to photography in one way or another since I was a teen.” Not only does he offer really affordable photography, but he also runs a full-service frame shop for everything from paintings and photographs to heirlooms and those shark’s teeth your family found at the beach last month. 

And you will want to bring something home with you. It might be a small thing – a ring or a scarf or a brightly painted ceramic trivet. Or it could be big – a large painting for your office lobby or living room. Cecy’s Gallery & Studios even features distinctive bow ties and boutonnieres from Jada Men’s Accessories; tinctures, lotions and teas from Heal Tree CBD; and the work of resident artist Kevin Wheeler, a self-described “abstract surrealist.” 

“Third Friday visitors can enjoy a wide open, brightly lit gallery that’s open to the night air and full of music and fun,” says Erika Williamson at Cecy’s. “The gallery has new items in every day, including artwork, beautiful crafts for your home and eclectic, fun fashions.” 

You get to walk from venue to venue, look at art, then walk outside. And the world looks different when you do. You look at a photographer’s work on a gallery wall, then you find yourself trying out their compositional vision on the street, and suddenly you’re taking an artistic picture of a streetlamp reflected in a car’s windshield or a neon sign through bare tree branches. The art doesn’t stop working when you leave the gallery; it changes you, it gets behind your eyes so you see more. Walking from gallery to gallery lets you practice that. 

“Our hope is that we can spark some joy and conversation with focused solo and thematic exhibitions on our main wall and other work throughout the gallery by our stable of 50 artists,” says Dave Wofford at PS118 Gallery. “We take pride in showcasing soulful work in a range of media and across a wide spectrum of price points by artists and craftspersons from across the Southeast (over half are from North Carolina), as well as showcasing the books we publish at Horse & Buggy Press,” his other gallery over on Broad Street that is celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

Even if you’ve settled your bar tab, make the 21c Museum Hotel your last stop. They always have a show up featuring artists who get solo exhibits in the world’s top museums – and it’s open 24/7. Seriously, you can swing by 21c after last call. It’s the best way to end a Third Friday in Durham. 

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