The galleries in historic Pioneer Square launched ArtWalk in 1981. Also known as First Thursday, Artwalk is an evening of exhibition openings, a neighborhood social and an opportunity to experience Art and Culture through the outstanding gallery venues in Pioneer Square.
My first participation in ArtWalk was at Booil Arts, a classy frame shop and gallery in the Washington Shoe Building, where I also had a studio just above on the second floor. From 1981 to 2011, after I moved studios from the Washington Shoe Building to the 619 Western Building, I hosted ArtWalk evenings on the fifth floor south, GoldShoe Studios & Gallery.
A Historical Perspective from the Seattle Art Dealers Association Website.
Late in 1979, running counter to what traditionally has been a very private and individual type of business, several Pioneer Square art galleries met to look at ways to gain greater visibility by working together. Early meetings involved The Legacy, The Art Emporium, Davidson Galleries, Foster/White, Native Design, Pioneer Square Gallery, Nina Miller Gallery, Silver Image Gallery, and Elena Perez Vogl Gallery. One idea to come out of these meetings was the Pioneer Square Gallery Guide/Map which made its first appearance on December 1, 1979. Galleries agreed to share the expense of printing the Guide. Others who became involved as the project gained momentum were Linda Hodges Gallery, Francine Seders Gallery, Linda Farris Gallery, Diane Gilson Gallery, A.R.C., Booil Arts, Gallery Mack, Richard Nash Gallery, Rosco Louie, Art Connection and Manolides Gallery. The Pioneer Square Gallery Directors Group became a reality.
Another idea from the Group was to host an evening gallery walk to celebrate Leap Year in February of 1980. Capitalizing on a “Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday” event earlier in that month organized by the bars and restaurants in Pioneer Square, the group made table cards advertising "A Night at the Galleries: A Walk through Pioneer Square's Distinguished Galleries” to be held on Thursday, February 28. They also created sidewalk “footprints” leading to participating galleries as well as balloon markers. Earlier that week, the “Cityscape-What’s happening in town” section of the Seattle Times, in a brief listing for the new ArtWalk, quoted Elena Perez Vogl as saying “People should plan to come for the evening. They can park free at the Kingdome, see some galleries, have dinner, then see a few more galleries. It’s the first event of its kind here. We hope we can do it every year.” The evening was such a success that the Gallery Group felt that a monthly event should be considered. By 1982 the monthly "First Thursday" was well underway, supported by the locator map, press releases and the individual mailings of The Gallery Group members.
Today, 32 years after that first ArtWalk, First Thursday continues to bring in crowds of visitors to the galleries to see new exhibitions, to meet artists, and to socialize with friends. First Thursday has come to include most of the city's major art galleries and is a special “art evening” for many more new galleries and art related businesses hoping to take advantage of the evening's draw.