Outside the Oreo

Lauren Piro

Friday is my favorite day of the week. Granted, I may have a little bit more extra time to myself on Fridays than some of you (oh, to be a second semester senior), but this last day of the work week is always the easiest to get through as it amplifies the promise of two days off to come.

On Friday, we have afternoons of relaxing on Sheehan Beach, KOP trips, nights out with apartment-mates and extended slumbering hours in which to revel. Philadelphia knows how precious this day of the week is to its inhabitants as well, and once a month offers to enrich Friday with the best in local art and culture.

I’ve been to Old City’s iconic First Friday activities before. Galleries between Front and Third open their doors this one evening a month and invite in all walks of Philly life to see what their latest exhibited artist has created. Bright acrylic paintings, fluid sculpture and countless other media line the gallery walls and cobblestone streets, and if you’re lucky you may even score some free wine and cheese (for those of us who are of legal age to imbibe, of course).

But did you know that the towns of Bryn Mawr, Ardmore and Haverford host their own Friday festival that first weekend of each month? It’s called First Friday Main Line, and it kicked off my first February weekend with good eats and good art.

Like its Philly counterpart, the Main Line’s First Friday invites local businesses-like Milkboy and Merion Art & Repro Center-to showcase a local artist or musician for the night. A free trolley rides up and down Lancaster for First Friday-ers’ traveling ease from one venue to the next, and many local restaurants offer dinner specials. In fact, for this past Friday, if the spotlight was on any masterpiece it was the food, as this month marked the organization’s first annual Foodapalooza.

With a name like Foodapalooza, I was expecting greatness, and I must say that although the venue was small and elbow room for the many who attended was minimal, I was not disappointed. The evening was meant to introduce locals to the cuisines of area eateries, but acted also as an appetizer competition for the seven restaurants showcased. Lo mein from Auspicious, pasta dishes from Primavera Pizza Kitchen and Café San Pietro, tangy hot wings from J.R. Monaghan’s, a Greek chicken and eggplant dish from Mediterranean Grill, pork and cranberry horseradish hors d’oeuvres from McCloskey’s and sushi from Fuji Mountain over-flowed on my too-small plate.

A taste of seven restaurants for a $10 donation for admission? Easily the best dinner deal on the Main Line that night, even with the 20 minutes I spent in a buffet line (although there was wine tasting from Chaddsford Winery and the Wine Merchant, plus a chocolate fountain from Whole Foods to dull my lack of patience. You read correctly-a literal fountain of chocolate). Although shouts of “It was delicious!” followed the announcement of McCloskey’s inventive dish, shrimp and scallops from the Primavera Pizza Kitchen ultimately took first prize.

After Foodapalooza my bigger-than-my-stomach eyes and I wandered over to the near Main Line Art Center to take in some less caloric creations and get my First-Friday local art fix. This month, the center hosted a free exhibition called One Night Stand for emerging visual artists between the ages of 21 and 35.

Mirroring the vibrancy of youth itself, much of the art utilized bold colors and statements; my favorites included a collage of the famed Philly LOVE by Laura Bodzioch and the black-and-white photography of Emma Stern. I only regret that my college-aged budget permits me to only look upon their art rather than patronize it.

After I perused the art center a little longer, I had the chance to speak with Communications Director Rachel Ammon and Education Director Stacie Nussbaum. Aside from its regular exhibits, the art center holds regular art classes, many of which are perfect for students in the area, Ammon says.

“We have amazing professors and teaching artists,” she says. “When you come here you learn from the best, and we really have classes for all ages and experience.”

Clicking through the center’s Web site, it appears as though this is quite true. Classes range from beginner courses in acrylic painting and jewelry making to more advanced workshops in figure sculpting and portraiture.

“We have some students in the area who take classes, but I’d love to have more,” Nussbaum says. “I’d love to hear what students are asking for.”

In fact, Nussbaum has been approached by a Villanova art club looking for open studio space and says she would love to find a way to work with the University to make this happen. With the inspiration and tradition I found this week at First Friday Main Line and the Main Line Art Center, I would love to see this happen .