First Friday is an event held in many cities across the country to promote small businesses, the art community and camaraderie among residents.

And Victoria has jumped on the bandwagon.

Moonshine Drinkery and Santa Rita Market, both located in downtown Victoria, will host their 6th First Friday Art Show from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, along with Free Art Victoria. The event is free and open to the public.

“Artists will be showing their work in both places, and the event keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Genevieve Robles, hospitality manager for Moonshine Drinkery. “The first time, we had three or four artists. Every time, more artists come out.”

The street in front of Moonshine and Santa Rita will be blocked off, and attendees will be able to enjoy cocktails in Moonshine while perusing the work of more than a dozen local artists. DJ Neon G will spin tunes outside, and Moonside Macarons from El Campo will sell their confections including a couple of special flavors just for the event — almond honey nut and raspberry rose.

About 70 community members attended the last First Friday event.

“It’s pretty big around the nation. Some places have organizations that run it, and it’s very prestigious,” said Josh Vega, founder of Free Art Victoria. “I didn’t know much about it until Gen told me about it happening in Colorado. And in 24 hours, we ended up making it work.”

As an artist, Vega works with spray paint, acrylics and collage, and he often repurposes found objects such as records. Free Art Victoria gives Vega a way to give the community art through different channels. He drops small pieces of artwork at various locations around town and posts photos of them on social media. He collaborates with local companies on murals. He donates pieces for fundraising events, and he puts on educational workshops for children for nonprofit organizations.

Vega said the First Friday event gives many artists a place to show their work when they normally would not have such an outlet.

“Personally, I wanted to spend time getting to know the artists,” Vega said. “We brought the ones I knew together for the first one, and after that, artists heard about it and started showing up. Now we have 10 to 15 artists at every show, and we are already starting to build the show for December.”

Vega said the First Friday event attracts a variety of artists, from those who have been creating art for 20 years to others who have been making art for 20 days. While the show is comfortable and not overly structured, it still is curated to some extent to make sure the work is presented in an appealing way.

Brea Lara, of Victoria, is one of the artists who will show her work at the First Friday event. She is a graphic designer and illustrator who creates wood burning and mixed media pieces. She has been creating artwork all of her life, though not always in the public eye. Most of her work will be for sale at the event. Tim Lara, Brea Lara’s husband, will show his photography at the event as well.

“There has not been a place for people who do art out of their garages,” Brea Lara said. “It’s super cool, and I’m honored to be a part of it. We need a voice too.”

Alana Sharp, artist and art teacher at Industrial Junior High School and the Victoria Art League who also has earned two art degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, also will show her work at the event. She has been working on her Frida Kahlo mural on the interior wall of Santa Rita Market in preparation for First Friday. For every First Friday event, she adds elements, making it a living mural. This time, she added details to Kahlo’s jewelry, such as the image of the artist’s husband Diego Rivera, and butterflies.

“It’s important for it to be a living mural, for it to change, and I think that’s unique,” Sharp said. “I worked a lot on that to make sure it has new elements, meaning that is unique to Victoria, unique to our town.”

Sharp said the art show brings people together from all walks of life, celebrates culture and uniqueness, and highlights community talent.

“Art is a great forum for creating relationships and growing a community,” Sharp said. “I’m grateful they wanted me to be involved in it (First Friday). I love art. I’m an art teacher, and I’m humbled to be part of it.”

Krystin Ortiz and Chris Melendez are the owners of Santa Rita Market, a cultural gift shop filled 95% with merchandise that is handmade. At the last First Friday event, two artists showed a large quantity of work and sold several pieces in their shop. The store’s ribbon cutting will take place at 5 p.m. before the beginning of First Friday.

“Artists who don’t have a place to show their work can showcase their art,” Krystin Ortiz said. “We help promote it, and it’s been inspirational. We’re open to anything that promotes the art community.”

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Elena Anita Watts is the features editor for the Victoria Advocate. She covers faith, arts, culture and entertainment, and she can be reached at 361-580-6585 or ewatts@vicad.com.

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