Selling cultural art opportunities in Las Vegas that are ostensibly designed to benefit residents, and not so much the tourists, is apparently a very difficult sell.
‘First Friday’ in Las Vegas started in 2002 as an art crawl, or a monthly block party on the first Friday of each month that includes downtown galleries and businesses in the Las Vegas Downtown Arts District. Art galleries were open. Musicians would take to the sidewalks next to psychics, poets and other strolling performers. Crowds grew from a few hundred to as many as 10,000, requiring barricades, police officers and a host of special permits.
But now all that has changed. No white familiar tents dotting the landscape. No stages blasting rock music. No crowds lining up in large lines at food vendors.
Funding problems are causing Whirlygig, the nonprofit organization running the event, to scale back considerably. Founder Cindy Funkhouser has been seeking money, including private donations, but not enough has resulted to keep the festival going.
Festival costs are in excess of $13,000 a month for barricades, stages, power, lighting and permits. Las Vegas, which is a large support of the event, contributing $80,000 a year, now concentrates that amount on just six months, when crowds are the largest, rather then the entire year. It hoped Whirlygig would grow into a self-sustaining organization. It didn’t.
Funkhouser says she and her husband, Rick Dominguez, want to get back to presenting the large festival, but says “We’re just kind of winging it. I’m just kind of at the point where this is what it is.”