Thank God It’s Free (Fridays): Art After Dark

11 Apr

Bored and broke on a Friday night? This seems to be the curse of college students and thrifters alike. For art lovers and supporters of local business, the search is over.

Every first Friday of the month, Art After Dark transforms 20 or so local businesses into a scattered art gallery, featuring an array of local artists and entertainment. This event, which typically runs from 6-9, has been put on by ARTs Obispo for nine years. It was created to introduce new artists to stores every month, helping both the arts and local economy.

HumanKind fair trade store

Entering HumanKind Fair Trade

HumanKind fair trade, a nonprofit dedicated to fully supporting farmers and craftsman through fair trade,  is an avid supporter of this event.

Last week, this tiny storefront was packed with people. A band of Cal Poly students were playing easy jazz in the storefront, providing lovely background that still allowed for good conversation. In the back was a sampler of Central Coast brewing growlers and Paso Robles wine, along with some great chips and dips. This month, they are featuring local surfing photographer Jean Paul Molyneux. <— click for a blog of his work

Joy Friesen, who manages this event for the company, loves the atmosphere.

“This event does an amazing job of bringing the community together to support both local businesses and artists. It is such a great pairing.”

Another fun stop was Old World Rugs. Greeted by a friendly table of peach sangrias and sugary goodies, the signs take you down a flight of stairs into a basement den. Colorful wallets, shoes, and canvases fill the straw floored room, with a raised circle of couches. It is a quieter, more laid back feel, but the artists are young and eager to chat.

Tommy Nickerson, a music major at Cal Poly, paints artwork on solid white Vans, as well as a couple canvases. He says the thing he likes most most about this event is “being able to see people face-to-face”, as most of his interaction is done online.

“Showcasing my work is cool and fun because i actually get to meet people that are interested in my stuff. The internet can be a cold place.”

Tommy Nickerson and some of his custom Vans designs

There are custom designs, album artwork, and very fun bright colors, each with it’s own story.

<— These shoes he made for a transgender person who wanted some theme elements incorporated into a rainbow. “I did not want to do just a traditional rainbow. Bright and colorful, but more subtle,” said Tommy. He also encorporated the transgender flag on the back (blue, pink, and white stripes).

Check out his etsy site for more of his  work.


There were so many different stores, it was hard to get through all of them. This is a very brief representation of what is out there. A Cal Poly Graphic Communication student, Leah Pyron, just found out about it this year, and thinks the event does a great job of catering to a different kind of college student.

“It is something to do away from the norm, that also supports the town and art. Plus who can beat free snacks and drinks. It’s a whole experience.”

Come down and find your own favorite places. There is even “an app for that,” if you are an iPhone user. It features all the stores, and more about what Art After Dark is all about. There is also more information about other events hosted by ARTs San Luis Obispo.


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