Prescott has a lovely longstanding practice of holding a monthly art walk. For those few who aren’t yet familiar with this festive practice, every fourth Friday of the month participating galleries stay open later than usual (typically 8pm), with offerings of live music, wine and hors d’oevres, and a chance to enjoy local fine art in a more relaxed, evening setting.
Each month features signature events and exhibits produced by the individual galleries. For instance, the Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, whose members are all local, hosts monthly guest shows and opening receptions for those featured artists on Art Walk Fridays. Others, including the ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery, Mountain Artists Guild Gallery and The Gallery at Prescott Center for the Arts, introduce new exhibits of work by Prescott-area artists each month, using the Art Walk to showcase those exhibits and give patrons the chance to interact with artists in person.
The initiative to start a monthly art walk in Prescott began back in 2003 with Patti Ortiz and Annie Alexander, who wanted to create a kind of “art cartel” through which galleries could work together to promote local art. Many cities offer art walks on the first Friday of the month, but Annie and Patti wanted to be different. They gathered artists and gallery people and asked for ideas for how to envision a vibrant art community that could strut its stuff one evening a month.
In one early planning meeting, as ideas crossed the room, Einstein’s theory of relativity emerged and the focus landed on the fourth dimension, where time and space coexist, allowing for motion. They chose not the first but the fourth Friday of each month for the ArtWalk as a nod to Einstein, and for a while referred to the event as Art, the 4th Dimension. “Our ‘inauguration day’ was February 27, 2004. At 4pm the snow began to fall, and within a half hour Prescott had up to four inches of it. Unbeknownst among the group at the time, 2004 was a leap year, which only happens every four years. The four thing seems to keep us going,” said Patti.
Many locals now build it into their calendars to get out on the fourth Friday every month to see what’s new, meet up with friends and grab a bite downtown.
Known affectionately as the “4-Heads,” the ArtWalk Committee consists of artists and owners from the galleries and works to keep everyone up to date on what's happening each month. The committee now consists of me, Abby Brill (director and representing Arts Prescott Gallery), Patti Ortiz (website and social media, ‘Tis Art Gallery), Mary Kaye O’Neill (secretary, ‘Tis Gallery, Krieger Gallery), Jill Huckeba (treasurer, formerly Huckeba Gallery) and Debbie Rasmus, in charge of press releases.
This group puts together an annual brochure published each April with a handy calendar to keep track of the dates and a list of all the venues taking part. The brochures are available all over town, in galleries, hotels, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, wherever visitors may be looking for local attractions, and on the website Artthe4th.com, along with more details and photos covering each month’s events. There are also big sidewalk flags out on Art Walk days to help visitors find the participating venues.
Covid has not been kind to our local artists and galleries. Art Walk venues such as the Natural History Institute and Yavapai College Art Gallery have moved to online virtual exhibits and educational videos, which are not the same as an in-person experience but have fortunately been working for them. While local shoppers have been supportive of buying local, the reduction in travel due to the risk of infection has meant a drop in out-of-town visitors. Holiday revenue was down in every gallery I spoke with, and a handful of galleries have closed outright. After the spring shutdown, when all the galleries were closed, the Art Walk didn’t start up right away. Most galleries are again open for the Art Walk, taking precautions to ensure minimal contact between visitors.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Most galleries are keeping their bills paid and looking forward to better sales soon, when more visitors will be vaccinated and people can again travel without fear. Speaking as a member of Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, I can say that we have welcomed a number of new members over the past year and are very optimistic about the future.
It was really moving how much holiday shopping folks did in our local galleries. We are all so grateful. This is what builds strong communities. We urge you to continue supporting local artists as we all find our way through this unprecedented health and economic crisis.