If you didn't happen to be in downtown Colorado Springs on Friday evening, mark your calendar (do people still have calendars?) for Sept. 6 and plan to attend the Downtown First Friday celebration of public art.

You won't want to miss it, if you love public art, as I do.

What you missed during the recent Downtown First Friday event was the work of the Urban Sketchers, a group of artists who stood on street corners along Tejon Street and drew things that inspired them.

It was a target-rich environment, given the street performers who also were deployed as part of the Downtown Partnership's efforts to draw attention to the vibrant art gallery scene in the heart of the city on the first Friday of each month.

This time, they had drummers, musicians, poets, dancers and more scattered throughout downtown. Best, it was all free.

"Individual galleries promote the exhibits that are opening and we are trying to promote habit-forming visits to downtown," said Lara Garritano of the Downtown Partnership, which works with businesses, the city and community groups to create a robust downtown business, shopping and entertainment district.

Garritano also explained that public art helps give downtown a vibrant, unique "sense of place" so vital to making a community a place where employees want to be, businesses want to set up shop and where tourists want to visit.

"And it's a place where people want to live and identify with," she said.

Enlisting artists to sketch, dance, sing and do live performances on the street is a way to accent the art on display inside the galleries and shops downtown, she said.

It's all part of an effort to have downtown Colorado Springs recognized as a creative arts district.

This past Friday, there were 10 gallery openings, live music at Studio B at the Pikes Peak Center, a couple of exhibits in retail shops and much more to explore and enjoy.

I've long been a fan of the public art downtown, from the sculpture that graces the medians, sidewalks, planters and lawns to the murals that seem to be showing up more frequently.

I like the whimsical Humpty Dumpty figures, the tribute to Pumpkin Man Nick Venetucci and the soaring Starr Kempf stainless steel wind catcher.

I love the murals, such as those created by Steve Wood's Concrete Couch volunteers along trails, under bridges and the autism awareness piece recently painted on North Tejon Street near Colorado College.

I also like the recent mural at Bijou Street and Cascade Avenue commissioned by the Myron Stratton home to honor its founder, Winfield Scott Stratton and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the home for the less fortunate he created.

The Downtown First Friday program is just another reason to get out of the suburbs and explore the historic, cultural and artistic heart of Colorado Springs. Here's a link to future events with details on galleries and parking: http://www.downtown80903.com/arts-and-culture/first-fridays

And don't be disappointed if you missed the Urban Sketchers this time. They'll be back for First Friday in September and October.

You can also still see the Sidewalk Stage street performance group, which boasts 25 music, dance, poetry, circus acts and more performing on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays downtown through Aug. 17. Check their schdule at this link: http://www.downtown80903.com/arts-and-culture/sidewalk-stage

And you can see the permanent sculpture and murals and things any time. Just head on downtown.


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