Stretching ‘First Fridays’ out for whole weekend in Old City

The inaugural First Friday Weekend offers a nod to the concurrent opening of the Philadelphia Flower Show with a scavenger hunt for flowers. Visitors who find flower-related objects in certain shops and galleries can win gift certificates.

It’s one of the events set to encourage visitors to spend their days in Old City, not just a single evening.

Another is an exhibition of work made from storm-tossed timber.

When Hurricane Sandy ripped through New York and New Jersey last fall, it toppled thousands of trees. Some of them were carved into sculpture by Mark Gardner and are now in display at the Center for Art in Wood on Third Street near Arch.

“We have our biggest crowds on First Friday, between 500 and 700 people,” said center director Albert LeCoff, walking through gallery with the aid of an ornate turned-wood cane. The center used to be located at the less hospitable corner of Fifth and Vine, near the Ben Franklin Bridge on-ramp. There, it was called the Wood Turning Center.

To take advantage of the foot traffic enjoyed by the gallery scene, LeCoff moved the workshop and exhibition space to Third Street and changed its name to the more gallery-friendly Center for Art in Wood.

“I was lucky to get 2,200 people a year at the old location,” said LeCoff. “Moving here at the heart of Old City … in our first year we have seen 14,000 people.”

LeCoff is ready to capitalize further on the popularity of gallery row. This weekend, the Center for Art in Wood and a dozen other galleries, restaurants and boutiques (including the Betsy Ross House and the Arden Theatre) are launching the first First Friday Weekend.

Future First Friday Weekends will include Brunch Sundays, as galleries and restaurants cross-promote one another with specials.

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