First Thursdays Cape Town comes to Jo'burg

First Thursdays Jo'burg kicks off May 7 in Braamfontein. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G).

First Thursdays Jo'burg kicks off May 7 in Braamfontein. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G).

Jo’burgers will now get their very own First Thursdays – a global phenomenon that sees visual art and other cultural spaces open till late on the first Thursday of every month.

Joining cities like New York, Cape Town and London; Joburg’s First Thursdays promises a free art walk where art lovers can peruse different art galleries, eateries and other artsy events till late.

“The initiative allows attendees to access galleries and exhibitions after hours, and provides a unique opportunity to explore a neighbourhood on foot at night,” according to the team behind First Thursdays Cape Town, who are bringing the monthly gig up north. 

Starting small, parts of Braamfontein – a slight cultural district in Jo’burg – will participate in First Thursdays, starting on May 7. 

Despite its size, this gentrified enclave has a large number of visual art galleries in the vicinity, from the Wits Art Museum to Stevenson, Kalashnikovv and iThuba, to name a few.   

“The experience is very dependent on walkability, and therefore is limited to the area bounded by Bertha Street, Smit Street, Biccard Street, and Jorrisen Street,” according to the event organiser’s websites. 

The list of participating galleries has not yet been announced by the organisers, The Thursdays, who started the First Thursdays Cape Town in 2012.

First Thursdays Cape Town (image via Facebook)

According to Business Day’s Penny Haw, the monthly art walk is a “concept originated by the White Chapel Gallery, which introduced First Thursdays in east London, England, to make art galleries and museums more accessible to the public” 

Using an online map to guide people in Cape Town and London, First Thursdays has spread globally in the past few years and has been used as a tool to attract a younger audience to gallery spaces. 

In Ontario, Canada, where most museums, including Art Gallery of Ontario, face audience challenges, according to the Toronto Star newspaper, First Thursdays “emerged as an exciting game-changer” to the gallery. “Six months into the program, it’s clear that First Thursdays could be a game-changer … liberating the AGO [Art Gallery of Ontario] from its hard-to-shake image as a place for sophisticated, highly educated elitists but somewhat forbidding for others.”   

And back home, on local turf, the initiative, “according to participating gallery owners … has succeeded in attracting people who don’t generally visit art galleries, possibly because of the sociable nature of the event,” writes Haw.   

According to its website, First Thursdays is working closely with property development agency Play Braamfontein and arts and culture website Between10and5.
“First Thursdays Johannesburg is coming to Braamfontein, so get ready for some kultcha,” tweeted Play Braamfontein, which is run by developer Adam Levy, who – according to – “is behind most of Braamfontein’s recent revival”.   

READ Braamfontein: from dumpster to state of the art    

So as First Thursdays Johannesburg makes a call for people to “participate as a gallery, store, event, performance, pop-up exhibition, or other attraction” at the inaugural event in May, it will be interesting to see how this initiative affects Jo’burg’s art landscape, and whether it will grow beyond Braamfontein’s hipster confines.

stefanie jason

stefanie jason

Following studying towards her Film & Media degree at the University of Cape Town and North Carolina State University, Stefanie Jason began work as a copy editor and writer for various South African publications, including Bona, True Love and Sowetan, as well as the Mail & Guardian. For the M&G's arts & culture supplement Friday, she writes about art, music & lifestyle when she isn't relaxing, traveling or checking out Jo'burg's many art galleries. Read more from stefanie jason

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