Every last Friday of the month, The Fralin Student Engagement Council invites the University and the local Charlottesville area to The Fralin Museum of Art for Final Fridays, an event that allows participants to engage directly with art by making their own crafts, performing live music, or view exhibits under the guidance of a Fralin Student Docent. With paintings lining the walls, The Fralin offers the perfect atmosphere for monthly cultivation of artistic expression and community-building.
Lisa Jevack, the Special Events Coordinator at The Fralin, takes pride in helping the SEC put together “a space where [students] can come get some food, hang out with friends, view some art and have a good time.”
According to Jevack, events that allow students to explore their creativity is an essential part of the college experience.
“You don’t have to be an artist,” Jevack said. “You don’t have to be considered a quote-unquote artsy person to come here and enjoy what we offer.”
On this most recent Friday, the SEC carried out Jevack’s message by providing craft supplies for vinyl record collages such as colorful papers to arrange on the records and record covers to complete the retro mood. In the past, Final Fridays have also provided materials for macaroni art, creating a calming atmosphere reminiscent of childhood crafts.
The SEC further engages with the community by collaborating with student organizations and local businesses to provide music to liven their Friday night event. In the past, they have collaborated with University Records in addition to a cappella and dance groups to uplift student musicians with a beautiful stage and an appreciative audience with a heart for art.
“Another perk I see is oftentimes we’re going to get students who maybe haven’t been to The Fralin before, but their friends are performing, so they’re going to come see them,” Jevack said.
Jevack’s rationale certainly proves true for fourth-year College student Mary-Dryden Maio, who attended February’s Final Friday in collaboration with WXTJ, the University’s student radio station.
“[My friend Gabby] just told me that they were having Final Friday and that she was going to be throwing records, so I was like, ‘Absolutely, sounds brilliant,’” Maio said.
Final Fridays also provide budding museum educators, the Fralin Student Docents, with an audience for their spotlight talks and tours. Docents select one painting to highlight in each Final Friday spotlight talk, facilitating a captivating group discussion about the art on display. In addition to the spotlight talks they prepare for Final Fridays, docents present to K-12 students and university classes throughout the week.
Bailey Greggs, third-year College student and Fralin Student Docent, said her presentations give students an opportunity to bond as they analyze art, provoking conversation with art at its center.
“Art is about conversation,” Greggs said. “It’s beautiful, and it can be scary. But I also think the biggest thing is that you have to engage with it. Going on a tour is not just about learning about the art, but it’s about connecting to it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges in planning Final Fridays, but in The Fralin’s creative fashion, Jevack and the SEC maintained their connection with the community virtually over Facebook Live. They involved local businesses, putting community at the foreground of their events during an isolating time.
“We got some local musicians to play live over Zoom, and then we even got some student bands through University Records,” Jevack said. Even in the wake of the pandemic, The Fralin provided a virtual stage for the musicians of Charlottesville.
And, of course, everyone loves the free food at Final Fridays. The SEC tuned into their artful resilience, continuing to provide a platform for local restaurants by swapping out in-person food trucks for virtual restaurant gift card giveaways.
“That was a way we could still offer everybody a meal, even though it was virtually,” Jevack said.
Jevack hopes the Final Fridays of the future will have even more student involvement and become a student-led effort.
“My goal would be that we’ll continue to give more autonomy to the students in the planning and the execution and the running of this event because it has really become an event for the students,” Jevack said.
And Jevack is right — Final Fridays have proved time and time again that The Fralin is a uniting force for students of the University and a creative haven for anyone with an inkling of love for art.
The Fralin will be hosting its next Final Friday Friday, March 31 from 5-7pm.