In the wake of a summer filled with arts vs. bureaucracy news coverage, Mayor Dwight Jones appears to have drawn a more friendly line in the sand for area art galleries, according to Style Weekly's Chris Dovi. It started with a September 1 meeting between the mayor and Christina Newton, director of Curated Culture, which sponsors the popular First Friday art walks on Broad Street. It continued with Jones' walking tour of the event this past Friday.
Newton finally got the answers she’s been looking for, she says.
“The organic nature of First Fridays’ growth has brought these challenges,” Newton says, but “we had a very positive meeting and the city is going to assist our organization and the downtown businesses in facilitating special-use permits for the downtown events.”
In a nutshell, Jones’ team sensed an unfortunate face-off between one of the city’s most positive cultural events and modern code and fire safety applied to a half-dozen blocks of 60- to 100-year-old buildings.
Last week, Jones reiterated his pledge to support the event. At the meeting — also attended by the mayor’s chief policy adviser, Suzette Denslow, Fire Chief Robert Creasy and acting Chief Building Commissioner Ray Abassi – the new chief administrative officer, Byron Marshall, laid out the bones of a three-tiered approach to handling the issue.
The first step was Jones’ appearance at last week’s First Fridays, a clear sign that the city has no plans to endanger the event with overeager code enforcement. The next step, Jones spokeswoman Tammy Hawley says, will be issuing special permits to allow certain businesses to exceed occupancy limits during First Fridays.