This Friday night may be the first weekend of November, but no matter what the weather there’s going to be a party in downtown Ballston Spa.
Walking up and down Milton Avenue, Washington Street and Front Street, people will be stopping at local businesses as they celebrate the eighth anniversary of First Friday, the village’s free monthly arts night.
More than 20 businesses, shops and galleries will keep their doors open late for visitors, and there will be live music, arts and crafts, snacks and demonstrations.
On Oct. 5, during this month’s First Friday, the blues band Honeysuckle Vine played outdoors on the porch at Strolling Village Artisans while an artist worked nearby in clay. At Museum Glassworks, the garagelike studio of the National Bottle Museum, a group of visitors sat on stools and intently watched an artist heat and bend colored wands of glass.
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday
WHERE: At more than 20 places in Ballston Spa: on Milton Avenue (Route 50), Front Street, Washington Street, Low Street and Route 67
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: www.ballston.org, 885-5855
First Friday was launched in November 2004 by Strolling Village Artisans, an artists’ cooperative. A few years later, the Ballston Spa Business & Professional Association took over the event, which is now the longest continuously operating art night in the Capital Region.
“It’s a community celebration,” says Eric Seplowitz, a BSBPA board member and chairman of its First Friday Committee.
A professional photographer, Seplowitz is a member of Strolling Village Artisans; the studio and office for his business, Captured Light Photography (www.capturedlight.com), is in Art Alley, a co-op space next door to the main building.
A native of Stamford, Conn., he graduated from Union College in 1996 with a degree in geology. He and his wife, Betsy, a Union grad from Hoosick Falls, live in Ballston Spa with their children, Hudson, age 5 and Anna, who is 1 1⁄2.
Q: There are arts nights in Albany, Troy and Schenectady. What’s different about Ballston Spa’s First Friday?
A: The BSBPA sponsors it and runs it, with the help of its members and organizations in town. And it’s very walkable, for the downtown part of it.
Q: What’s the purpose of First Friday?
A: One of the missions is to make a vibrant downtown. It’s an opportunity for a small town. A lot of stores and a lot of the businesses are privately owned. They are Mom and Pop shops. It’s hard for them to stay open really late. So it allows the community to be open on Friday night, to have the storefronts open. It gives the opportunity for emerging artists, emerging musicians to display what they do. We did a First Friday with the schools where we featured art from the elementary school to the AP art class in the high school. We had them in all the different storefronts. It was a way to connect the school and the community and the businesses together.
Q: What does a typical participant do?
A: Stop off at Coffee Planet, get some coffee, listen to the band at Coffee Planet. There’s always live music and artwork on the walls. Then walking down the street, to watch the glass workers. Then they go through the shops. The Mango Tree, with the fair trade. They come to the Strolling Village. We always have a new show, an art opening. We try to get the artist there to talk about the art, to ask questions. The quilt store [Almost One of a Kind] usually has something going on where they can make something. Then they’ll walk up Front Street, and all the stores that are there and live music in some places. Art on the walls in many places. And they usually pick a place to have dinner.
Q: How are the restaurants involved?
A: The restaurants have started to do specials. There’s a new waffle restaurant, The Iron Roost. They’ll have a special menu for dinner for First Friday. They are not usually open for dinners, but they will stay open. Last month, 51 Front [51 Front Street Wine Bar & Bistro] did a First Friday menu.
Q: Who comes to First Friday?
A: We don’t have an official method of tracking, but I do get feedback from businesses. I think there’s a pretty good mix. We have a good core group of people who are local who come down every First Friday. You do have a group of people that come from the outside, from Albany, Troy, Greenfield, Saratoga, Glens Falls. They’ll say I’ve heard about it and I came to check it out.
Q: And it’s year-round?
A: We do it throughout the year. We never stop. In the summer we tailor it to the movies in the park. Some things are outside in the summer and then move inside into buildings during the winter season. In the summer, there’s a belly dance troupe at the fire house, in the fire station parking lot.
Q: Are there activities for children?
A: We have a place, Abigail’s Tea & Tiara. People with young children will drop their kids off, go out and have dinner or listen to music. You call up for reservations. They’ve been watching movies, and this month, I think they are doing a game night. During the summer months, families will come before or right after dinner. They’ll go to the candy shop and then watch the movie in the park.
Q: Is there a map or guide?
A: We have BSBPA maps all around the village. The schedule is posted on the website every month. They get printed by the businesses and either posted on their windows or handed out to people as they come through. The nice thing about Ballston Spa is everybody knows everybody, as far as the businesses go. If you say, hey, I’m looking for the candy shop, someone will tell you how to get there.
Q: Will there be a special event for the anniversary celebration?
A: We do a raffle, so every participating business will draw a name. There are usually 15 to 20 things that are raffled off. We do that every November.
Q: What do you do on First Fridays?
A: I have my artwork up, I’m available to talk to people about photography. I help people if they want to buy anything at the co-op or if they have questions about the co-op itself.
Q: How did you get interested in photography?
A: My mother was an artist. We had a darkroom in the house. She taught me the basics. And I’ve just been taking pictures ever since. I’ve taken workshops with Carl Heilman. I actually interned in Carl’s office up in Brant Lake for a number of years.
Q: Tell me about Captured Light Photography.
A: I started out in nature photography. It came out of a love of nature: hiking, camping.
From there, it’s progressed to different types of photography. I do commercial photography. Product photography, some portraits. Right now I’m focusing on more studio work. I also work with other artists, depending on what someone wants.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A kids series, artwork that would work well with children’s decor. This came out of my children, looking for artwork for their rooms, and realizing that there was a lot of artwork and not a lot of photography. I do pictures with blocks. Marbles was my first series. I wanted something that was exciting, colors that kids would enjoy. But also something that as they got older, they would still have another level of appreciation for.
Q: And you teach photography?
A: I usually do individual classes. I did group classes at one point but I found that people are at such different levels. I like working one-on-one with people. My goal is to get people happy with whatever they want to do. I would gear the lesson plan specifically to what your goals are.
Q: Favorite spots for photos?
A: I look for hidden beauty in the things that are right around us. I like to take nature photography locally, local streams and spots, maybe just a bend in the road. Love the Adirondacks. I like the Schroon River. I really like Plotterkill, which I was introduced to when I was at Union in geology. It’s got so much variety — the waterfalls, the geology that’s there.