Arts Feature

First Thursday Expands, Welcomes New Businesses

Restaurants Join Galleries in Monthly Arts Crawl

By Amanda Ladymon
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Painted Violins at Anastasia & Friends

First Thursdays on Main continues to expand as new businesses open downtown. The monthly arts crawl now spans from the 1200 to 1700 blocks, and as the weather gets warmer, the event will likely get bigger. The free event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on March 6.

For First Thurday founder and Frame of Mind owner Mark Plessinger, the most interesting aspect of it all is the grassroots effort behind it.

“We all throw a party for our businesses at the same time and invite the city,” he says. “We always have a very enthusiastic response from the patrons that come out.  They love being on Main Street, within the arts and cultural community.”

Long a completely grassroots effort, First Thursday received its 501(c)(3) status last July, giving the event the ability to apply for hospitality tax funding it can use for promotion and the security required by the city. The organization has also received an official designation that allows attendees to carry beer and wine in plastic cups on the sidewalks between the 1200 to 1700 blocks. Another goal is to advertise the event in Charlotte, Charleston and other nearby cities, thereby drawing more patrons to the event and benefiting the merchants in those blocks.

Here are a few of this month’s highlights.

Frame of Mind
1520 Main St., 988-1065

Frame of Mind hosts Part II of the exhibition See It My Way, featuring paintings by JJ Ohlinger and Jarid Lyfe Brown. This show features an innovative approach to how we think of the human body. Colorful and vivacious, yet urban and edgy — not to be missed.

Anastasia & Friends Gallery
1534 Main. St. (at Free Times)

The much-anticipated Painted Violins exhibition is a fundraiser for the South Carolina Philharmonic. Fifteen artists have transformed violins into works of art through their own approaches — some painting the instruments, other altering them in more fundamental ways. The violins will be sold in a silent auction format from starting March 6 until March 21.

While stopping in to look at the art should be your first priority when you arrive downtown, you might also want to fill your belly. Al-Amir is celebrating its grand opening at the corner of Main and Laurel streets, and Bourbon at 1214 Main St. is doing a sneak peek at its new restaurant space. Cantina 76 (1301 Main St.) will have two-for-one margarita specials, and The Whig will offer new River Rat beer for the afterparty.

If you care to try your hand at a painting class, Grapes & Gallery (1113 Taylor St.) is offering a beer and Girl Scout cookie pairing, along with an instructor-guided painting session from 5 to 9 p.m.

Among other participating venues: Carolina Hair Studios, Wine Down on Main, Tapp’s Arts Center, The Arcade and the Gallery at City Hall.

As First Thursday continues to expand from the State House to City Hall, there is a plethora of options for all to enjoy — especially in April, July, September and December. During those months, portions of Main Street are closed for more outdoor entertainment.

“These months are naturally larger as we fill the streets with as much fun and entertainment as we can,” Plessinger says.
And where does First Thursday hope to be five years from now?

“We want the event to be one of the calling cards for the city of Columbia — to encourage as many participants from across the state to make the trip to their capital city and enjoy,” Plessigner says. “And it will continue to be art-based.” 

For more details, visit

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