Amarillo Celebrates First Friday Event Founder
Sunset Center in Amarillo, Texas was once one of the city’s premier shopping destinations. But following the opening of Westgate Mall in 1982, Sunset Center and similar locations began to lose tenants. Many fell into to disrepair, and some were eventually demolished to make way for new developments. But not Sunset Center. The shopping center, easily recognized by the colorful stained glass windows at its entries, has reinvented itself as a hub for visual art in Amarillo.
Today nearly every tenant of The Galleries at Sunset Center is an artist, art gallery or other art-related shop. The more than 55 galleries, and at least 100 artists, come together every month to organize Amarillo’s First Friday Art Walk (FFAW). From 5-9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, the galleries are open for the public to enjoy. As many as 1,000 art-loving Amarilloans attend the event to see new art and listen to live music.
February’s FFAW event was a little different though. Businesswoman Ann Crouch, who owned Sunset Center with her husband, passed away on January 5, 2017. This being the first event since most artists learned of her passing, there was a feeling of celebration and appreciation for Crouch throughout the brightly lit halls of Sunset Center. Many galleries had signs on display in their windows dedicating the evening to her, or honoring her memory. And it felt as though artists were making an effort to put out their best work for Crouch.
It was in late 2004 that Crouch was first asked by friends if she had an affordable space that a handful of college students could use as a painting studio. She obliged and wondered if other local artists would be interested in space. What was supposed to be a short-term test quickly snowballed into the large collective of artists it is today, and tenants began requesting long-term leases. The original FFAW event was later held sometime in 2006.
Artists from many walks of life, and who work in varied mediums occupy The Galleries at Sunset Center. Artwork from painters, photographers, sculptors and more is on display. West Texas A&M University maintains a student gallery featuring shows from a different student each month. A sculpture garden greets artists at the east entrance. The Panhandle Art Center and Amarillo Art Institute both offer art classes and a place for new and experienced artists alike to learn and grow.
It’s impressive to see what’s grown with Crouch’s help in Amarillo. Her contributions will be long remembered by its artists.
Kelly Podzemny is a social media strategist, writer and graphic artist. He is the social media manager for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s regional campus in Amarillo, and is pursuing his MA in Strategic Communication from Texas Tech University. While not working or studying, he enjoys public art, craft beer and geek culture.