COLORADO SPRINGS — Downtown Colorado Springs is getting international recognition for innovative thinking during the pandemic. Virtual First Friday proved a successful way of helping artists and art galleries survive COVID-19 stay at home rules. "Virtual First Friday sparked economic activity at a time of huge downturn,” said Downtown Ventures, Executive Director, Claire Swinford. The initiative was recognized by the International Downtown Association.
The plan put traditional First Friday art gallery tours online. "We would just do a live feed, a live camera feed from our social media, showing each individual piece of art and talking about it,” said Art 111 Manger, Robin Schneider. Turns out, a lot of people cooped up at home were happy to have a virtual change of scenery.
There were also incentives to get online visitors motivated to offer some aid for arts and culture through purchases. The Bee Vradenberg Foundation along with the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, provided $10 thousand of grant money. It added a donation element to each purchase. "You buy something from your favorite gallery, and we will add $50 to the tab, put an extra $50 in cash registers,” said Swinford.
The initiative generated nearly $100 thousand for local galleries and artists. “A lot of us wouldn't have made it,” said Schneider. The support did what was intended. It helped pay the bills and get galleries through the worst of the pandemic.
Recognition from the International Downtown Association is a bonus. "They gave us the award because we made an impact on the community,” said Swinford