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First Friday art events returning to White River Junction following coronavirus hiatus

  • Kathy Detzer, co-owner of Long River Studios, right, repositions pieces with artist and volunteer Paula Dorr at the gallery on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in White River Junction, Vt. Detzer will be open for the return of White River Junction's First Friday. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/6/2021 9:53:42 PM
Modified: 5/6/2021 9:53:39 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The last time Long River Gallery held a First Friday reception was March 6, 2020. Kathy Detzer, now a co-owner of the gallery, remembers it well.

“We had music and it was lively and there was a show,” Detzer said Thursday standing in the sunlight in front of the gallery on South Main Street. “We were bumping elbows, like, ‘Ha ha, I hope it doesn’t get any worse.’ ”

The Friday before, a Tuck School of Business event down the street at The Engine Room became the first gathering in the Upper Valley to trigger the concerns of public health officials in Vermont and New Hampshire after they learned that an employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center who later tested positive for COVID-19 had attended.

Not long afterward, the lockdown took effect, and White River Junction’s First Friday went dark.

So its cautious return this Friday night, mostly outdoors and with only a few galleries open, feels to Detzer and others like a turning point, the start of a long walk toward the light.

“Everybody’s so eager to be back and look at art again,” Detzer said. “It’s just this very festive and celebratory mood I’m feeling.”

“But,” she added, “we’re going to try and be slow about it.”

The main feature of the return of First Friday will be a series of outdoor film projections, an extension of last winter’s Light River Junction display, programmed by White River Indie Films (WRIF), the long-standing nonprofit film festival. The projections — onto shop windows and landmark buildings, including the Bell Telephone building on Gates Street — will range from footage from the CATV archive to experimental films by Dartmouth professor Jodie Mack and a 16mm cameraless filmmaking workshop with Strafford native Quinn Thomashow.

Behind the Hotel Coolidge, WRIF also will show a preview of its festival, which will take place later this month, both outdoors in Lyman Point Park and online.

The aim is to give people something to do outside while patronizing galleries and restaurants.

“I think there will be a nice flow,” said Stacy Hopkins, owner of Scavenger Gallery, which will be open 5:30 to 8:30.

Hopkins will be celebrating her small space’s ninth birthday with a reception for “Will you stay long enough to see me,” photographs and collages by Heidi Smith Bagley, and a sale on Hopkins’ handmade jewelry.

Only five people will be allowed in the gallery at any time, Hopkins said, but the outdoor projections, which will run from 5 to 10 p.m., represent an “evolution” of the pre-pandemic event, which consisted mainly of art shows and live music.

Tourist, a new gallery that opened in January, will be open from 5 to 7 p.m., showing “Salt,” recent work by Shaina Gates, who folds and crumples photo-sensitive paper before exposing it to the sun.

Other galleries are taking a slower approach. Two Rivers Printmaking Studio has installed an exhibition of miniature prints in the hallway outside the studio, which is in the Tip Top Media Arts building on North Main Street, but it won’t hold a reception, studio manager Sheri Hancock-Tomek said Thursday.

“We’re having an opening next First Friday,” she said, noting that many of the studio’s artist members are of an age that puts them at a higher risk of novel coronavirus complications. “We just don’t want to cause anyone to get sick,” she said.

The first reference to First Friday in the Valley News appeared on May 31, 2007. The event’s importance to galleries such as Two Rivers, which was then in its sixth year, is hard to overstate. Artists sell work, which benefits the studio, and the receptions are a chance for the studio’s artist-members to catch up and talk shop, Hancock-Tomek said.

For most of the past year, the studio has permitted only one artist at a time to work there, and required strict cleaning protocols. Recently, that’s been eased slightly, and Thursday, Norwich artist Penelope Bennett was in the studio with another artist who had ducked out for lunch.

“It is a healthy sign if the arts survive,” Bennett said.

She has been vaccinated and now feels comfortable going out. “I found that opening up and once more doing things, I was tongue-tied,” she said. “People need people.”

Two Rivers and the Main Street Museum participated in the earliest First Fridays. The museum, the long-running (since 1992) alternative-curatorial project of David Fairbanks Ford and his merry band, won’t host an indoor event, but will project films on its front window and operate a player piano.

The reopening brings the monthly event back to its roots, in a way. It was “organic,” said Kim Souza, an early participant.

“There’s no one who coordinates it,” said Souza, who sits on the Hartford Selectboard and operates Revolution, the clothing store on North Main Street. And no one wanted to oversell it.

The first First Friday in over a year is likely to sell itself.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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