Born out of the same perfect storm that led to the spontaneous creation of the Blue Star Arts Complex and Contemporary Art Month back in 1986, First Friday has evolved from a grassroots gallery crawl to a full-blown monthly affair some say has less to do with art than it does intoxicated foot traffic and overflowing parking lots. While it's true that changes in the Complex (namely a departure of artist-run spaces and subsequent arrival of restaurants) and Southtown's rapid growth have contributed to First Friday's transformation, there's still plenty of visual art left in the wild monthly mix.
The mothership of the Complex, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum mounts upward of 20 annual exhibitions encompassing all disciplines (painting, drawing, photography, video, sculpture and even the occasional performance piece). Under the direction of Mary Heathcott, BSCAM is more focused than ever as it gears up for its 30th anniversary in 2016. Beyond the confines of its four distinct gallery spaces, the nonprofit boasts the year-round mentoring program MOSAIC (led by accomplished local artist Alex Rubio) and a residency program in Berlin. Word to the wise: Beat the First Friday crowds by visiting the museum on the first Thursday of the month, when new exhibitions are officially unveiled to the public. 116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960, bluestarart.org
Longtime ringleaders of the First Friday alternative known as Second Saturday, gallery owner Justin Parr and his senior creative co-conspirator Ed Saavedra traded in their cozy digs at 1906 South Flores for a larger Blue Star space in 2014. Lucky for FL!GHT's faithful followers, the gallery's irreverent but causal approach to displaying and selling contemporary art wasn't lost in the upgrade. With assistance from next-door neighbors Terminal 136 (UTSA's offsite gallery), FL!GHT is activating a previously quiet corner of the Complex. 134 Blue Star, (210) 872-2586
Whereas some galleries maintain a strict San Antonio roster, Amada Claire Miller's tiny Hello Studio thoughtfully shakes things up by pairing local and regional artists in tightly curated exhibits. Regardless of the subject matter or discipline at hand, the gallery consistently delivers intriguing solo and group shows organized and hung in a way that echoes Miller's background in graphic design. 1420 S. Alamo St. #106, (210) 291-8640, hellostudiosa.com
Since opening its doors in September of 2013 with an exhibition of large-scale nudes by Wimberley-based photographer George Kraus, Cinnabar has established itself as a gallery to watch, picking up approving nods from Artforum and Garden & Gun while building an eclectic roster of local, regional, national and international artists. Founded by jeweler Susan Oliver Heard and named after a deep red (and poisonous) mineral, Cinnabar stands out from other artist-run spaces in the Complex by keeping weekly gallery hours and hosting daytime events such as artist talks and ice cream socials. 1420 S. Alamo St. #147, (210) 557-6073, cinnabarart.com
An offshoot of local glassblower Jake Zollie Harper's combined workspace, studio and classroom on South Presa, Zollie Glass Gallery offers an intriguing snapshot of San Antonio's burgeoning art glass scene. While Harper's imaginative chandeliers, perfectly imperfect tumblers, acid-green skulls and crystal-clear swords might be among the first things you notice, the compact shop champions rising glass artists crafting one-of-a-kind marbles, pendants and functional wares. 1414 S. Alamo #117-2, (210) 601-3883, zollieglass.com
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