First Fridays reveal urban literary scene

The first Friday evening of every month in Rochester, things come alive in the Neighborhood of the Arts. At Writers & Books, a three-story literary center on University Avenue, attendees mingle, drink wine and peruse gently used books underneath hanging paper snowflakes.

Before starting my internship at Writers & Books in January, I knew very little about the literary scene in Rochester – or even that one existed. But being involved has exposed me to a passionate community of writers, readers and artists, particularly evident on the nights of First Friday.

According to its website, First Friday is “a monthly citywide gallery night that encourages collaboration between nonprofit, university and commercial art venues,” the initiative serving as “a community night for experiencing art.” The program was started and is currently administered by the Rochester Contemporary Art Center.

Writers & Books is just one of many organizations participating in the program. Each venue must host an event at least nine months out of the year, with 23 Rochester locations hosting events for the First Friday on March 7.

The March evening at Writers & Books is particularly buzz-worthy, as it is associated with the month of the “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book” program. For this annual event, the staff selects a title and hosts a series of discussions and other public events around the book, including a visit to Rochester by the author. First Friday serves as a teaser of sorts for the events to follow.

Courtesy of Writers & Books

Courtesy of Writers & Books

“It further promotes an event down the line and exposes people not only to Writers & Books but to this specific book in general – and to this event that is a way of uniting Rochester and the community in a way that no one else is able to do,” Writers & Books Blog Coordinator Rylie Day said.

This year’s If All of Rochester selection is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a chilling and beautiful novel following a homesteading couple in 1920s Alaska. Fittingly, the First Friday evening featured paper snowflake making and an assortment of belly-warming pies, along with live music from The Fevertones. In addition to its themed activities on First Friday, Writers & Books hosts the longest-running open mic night in Rochester.

For students, First Friday is an introduction to both well-established and emerging art venues – whether you’re interested in creative writing, modern photography or African drumming.

“It gives the option to do something fun outside of the quintessential college experience, and that really just speaks to a lot of different, eclectic people,” Day said. “Anyone and everyone can find something valuable here.”

Outside of First Friday and If All of Rochester, Writers & Books holds youth and adult workshops, a summer literary program for youths called SummerWrite, a playwriting collaboration with Geva Theatre Center and several other programs.

As an alternative to another Friday night in Geneseo, take a drive into Rochester on April 4 – or take the Rochester Friday Knight Express Service bus to stop 13 – for the next First Friday. Park yourself at one location for hours, or explore a few; either way, it’s a captivating window into the true vibrancy of the arts in Rochester.