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First Friday moving online during coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 7:00 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 12:19:12-04

PHOENIX — It is one of the nation's largest art walks with approximately 30,000 people showing up each month.

However, First Friday fans will not be filling the streets in downtown Phoenix due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But there is another option for Valley residents to support these unique local businesses because First Friday is going virtual.

"Everybody's online right now," said Nicole Underwood. "Everybody's home!"

Underwood is with the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation and she knew that she had to get creative to keep these artists afloat.

"Well, we can't have a physical event, so what does it look like to have a digital event in a sense," she had asked herself.

Underwood tells ABC15 Arizona, she knew that simply throwing an artist's picture up online would not be enough to create a sense of the First Friday experience.

"We really wanted to be able to provide a virtual experience... and response to this," Underwood said.

The team decided to utilize Google's 360 degree maps to allow users to roam the streets.

"You can actually click on different boxes and see the artists' artwork and reference that to their website and actually browse... their website... essentially their digital stores," Underwood explained.

"I think people would be looking forward to... a virtual event like this," said First Friday vendor Tom Wright. "It's something that you can go to that's in your house. That sounds great!"

Wright owns Smoke Tree Workshop and has a very unique perspective on all of this.

He was just tested for the coronavirus and is awaiting the results now after suffering from symptoms for more than two weeks.

"It's the shortness of breath... that's the most... sort of alarming part of it," Wright described.

He understands the seriousness around the order from Governor Doug Ducey to stay home.

However, this business is his sole source of income. So they have to make sure they are still getting out there and getting work.

"It's been a real challenge to know that... the things that were the source of our income are now the things that can really make people sick," Wright said.

Underwood said the Roosevelt Row CDC is also looking for more vendors to include on the website and musicians who are live streaming their work. She asks that you contact them on their website to get involved.

The website will stay up beyond Friday and will hopefully serve as a tool for residents and businesses until crowds are safe to gather again.