The New Indy Must-Do List: Master First Friday

If you’re still doing First Friday the way you’ve always done it, it’s time to break up the routine. Here’s how to get your art on, Indy-style.
Get lost in the Murphy Arts Center.
Go ahead and bring a carefully planned itinerary to First Friday at Fountain Square’s labyrinthine G.C. Murphy Co. building (1043 Virginia Ave.). We dare you. Hurry past the cool kids smoking in the parking lot, toward your “serious” art outing. First, down an Artist’s Angel Food martini (360 Glazed Donut Vodka, pineapple juice, grenadine) at the minimalist Pure Eatery (Ste. 3), or drain a pint of Old Speckled Hen at the anglophilic Red Lion Grog House (Ste. 6). You know, get your mind right before slipping into the corridor that leads to the refined galleries of the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (Ste. 5) .
Climb a creaky staircase and poke your head into the adorable
Luxe 218 Salon & Gallery (Ste. 218)  to see precious hand-painted china saucers. Then veer into Primary Gallery (Ste. 217)  and pass a grotesque cartoon mouse head mounted on a gumball stand and a gentleman playing smooth jazz sax on your way to cheese, sausage, crackers, and $2 wine. Get your hand stamped at a saucy little speakeasy called Do317 Lounge (Ste. 215), where you can catch a free indie band (The Lumineers once played here!). Hear more free live music down the hall at Joyful Noise Recordings (Ste. 207), a boutique label with a closet-size shop that sells limited-edition cassette tapes and albums pressed on colored vinyl. Pet the proprietor’s sweater-wearing dog.
But before that, browse the revamped retail showroom of People for Urban Progress (Ste. 213) and marvel at what they’re making from the old RCA Dome roof (bicycle panniers!) as a friendly designer demonstrates a giant sewing needle. A curious “magic” ladder hanging from hooks in Get Dirty Ceramics (Ste. 208)  swings continuously, like a pendulum, for no apparent reason. An art show/beer bash might rage in The Upland Propaganda Room (Ste. 202). And a narrow staircase takes you to a single third-floor shop, Factory 17 (Ste. 304), that sells cheeky “Holy Water” Jesus flasks by local label Get Flasky.
Then again, the scene you stumble into on February 7 might be completely different. And that’s the whole point.
Head to the current hotspot.
That would be the Circle City Industrial Complex, a former warehouse that contains 16 galleries and studios, including Indy Flame Art Studio, Nancy Lee Designs, the M10 Studio, and Nikki Blaine Couture. Just be sure to grab a map: There are three sections with two separate entrances, so newcomers often miss half of what the complex has to offer.
1125 E. Brookside Ave., 317-536-6654
Catch a film screening at the Heartland Film Festival HQ.
Truly Moving Pictures, which joined the First Friday scene in 2012, shows an award-winning short film at its Fountain Square digs every 15 minutes, and its concession stand will keep you fueled with both popcorn and Sun King beer.
1043 Virginia Ave., Ste. 2, 317-464-9405,
Keep the party going.
IDADA no longer throws official afterparties, but you can usually find one anyway. Get insider tips by signing up for the e-mail lists at your favorite galleries, or just eavesdrop on the chatter as places are closing. And if that doesn’t work, go ahead and ask around.
The Indianapolis Downtown Artists and
Dealers Association’s monthly art tour has changed a lot in seven years,
now boasting nearly 40 participating studios and galleries—plus a huge
range of unofficial events.

So you’ve climbed the Monument, munched on corn at the Indiana State Fair, had your mouth set afire by a certain shrimp-cocktail sauce. But what are the modern-day rites of passage? We have answers: The New Indy-Must Do List.
This article appeared in the February 2014 issue.