One afternoon in late 2012, I brought an idea for a monthly first Friday art and culture event in downtown Geneva to some folks that I thought would share the long-term vision of such a project. Bethany and James Haswell of Stomping Grounds immediately offered their support and contacted two other champions of the local art and business community: Pablo Falbru of the artist collective UG Artists and Kevin Dunn of Love Geneva and Geneva 13. Shortly thereafter, the newly-formed Geneva Night Out Steering Committee held our first meeting, and scheduled the inaugural Geneva Night Out for February of 2013.
We received positive feedback and support from local media, educational organizations, the city, and the public at large before the first Geneva Night Out even took place. We decided to ‘start small’ by enlisting eleven venues to participate. Relying on grassroots promotion and a limited budget, we saw around 100 attendees moving through downtown on a windy, 9 degree February night, which provided an encouraging glimpse into the future of our first Friday efforts.
In March, the decision was made to host a monthly Student Art Gallery at every subsequent Geneva Night Out. One of the core goals of our mission is to foster the artistic pursuits of the youngest members of our community. Several local venues have since provided a space for a variety of art pieces by Geneva area elementary, middle and high school students, and hundreds of attendees have viewed the works of these talented young people from our lakeside city.
In six short months, we have gained the support and participation from faculty and students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Geneva City School District, and St. Francis-St. Stephen’s School.
The Geneva Public Library, Geneva Historical Society, Smith Opera House, City of Geneva, Finger Lakes Federal Credit Union, Finger Lakes Visitors’ Connection, Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Finger Lakes News Radio and Finger Lakes Times have all helped tremendously by both participating in and promoting the event.
Beginning in June and extending into the summer, we welcomed the addition of sidewalk art and performers, bringing the Geneva Night Out festivities ‘into the streets’ of downtown, and the City of Geneva offered to relax their open container laws for beer and wine during the event through August.
We were delighted and honored to learn that an independent fundraising event featuring local artists and musicians to benefit Geneva Night Out and The Smith Center for the Arts had been organized by local artist Jeanette Hernández, to take place on the evening of Saturday, July 13 2013 at The Smith.
We now have 18 participating venues beginning in August. Since February, we’ve given more than 70 artists, musicians, craftspeople, food artisans, authors, and artist groups the opportunity to exhibit their work while spotlighting our eclectic, walkable downtown.
What began as a small, grassroots, volunteer effort has developed rapidly to include the enthusiastic participation of the entire community, and as we expand our advertising, promotion and fundraising efforts into the future, we anticipate even further growth.
It’s been inspiring and exhilarating to see so many new artists exhibiting their work in a public space for the first time, and other artists with years of experience having their work seen and appreciated by a newer audience.
One of my favorite Geneva Night Out moments thus far was when I saw a couple walk into Shari’s Derma Technologies and exclaim, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know this was here!’ upon seeing Shari’s boutique filled with U.S.A.-made products. Discovering new things to love about Geneva should be something experienced by every visitor at every Geneva Night Out.
Still, the ultimate goal of Geneva Night Out is about more than throwing a downtown arts party once a month. It’s about growing the downtown business, social and cultural community to its greatest potential. Geneva Night Out (and all downtown enhancement efforts) will truly be a success when every storefront is filled, every downtown living space is occupied, and the entire city is prospering by virtue of our busy, vibrant downtown. When multiple businesses move their operations to Geneva, when Geneva becomes a widely-known hotbed of creative people with novel, impactful ideas, and when every night of the week feels like ‘Geneva Night Out,’ we’ll know that our long-term vision has been accomplished. And even then, we’ll keep throwing parties on the first Friday of every month.
To the unpaid and wildly talented artists, writers, poets, performers and musicians who’ve carried their paintings, illustrations, instruments, books, amplifiers, photographs, sculptures, jewelry, artisan foods, and creativity to downtown Geneva in all sorts of weather to be a part of this new downtown tradition: THANK YOU!
To the local business owners, city and public employees, organizational directors, media people, educators, property owners, volunteers, and everyone else who has offered their talents, spaces, money, and time to make Geneva Night Out a success: THANK YOU!
To all of the local and regional residents, travelers, tourists, and families who’ve faithfully made their way downtown to support local business and the arts: THANK YOU!
To the area artists, performers, crafters, poets, authors, musicians, food artisans, and creative folks of all stripes who have yet to participate: WE NEED YOU. As our roster of participating venues grows, so does our need for more artists to spotlight. It’s the perfect situation for you to share your work; no judges, no pressure, just set up and enjoy! Please visit the ‘Artists’ section of the Geneva Night Out website today and sign up. Do it, NOW!
Finally, Geneva Night Out is about YOU. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me either by phone (315-325-1176) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’ve already implemented some of the ideas that have been offered by people in our community, so don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts.
Thanks again, Geneva, and we’ll see you downtown on the first Friday of next (and every) month!
Director – Geneva Night Out