Business & Arts: First Friday Bhavana

If you ever been to Bhavana, it’s easy to see why owners Tommy Petersen and Kim Richardson are committed to First Friday events. The monthly art walk fits right in line with Kim and Tommy’s goals. The store itself has been meticulously designed, yet comes off effortless and welcoming – something you look for in a home décor provider. They offer ecclectic, unique pieces that are – as Kim puts it – “not stamped out”. It’s clear to see that art, creativity, and originality are part of the business model. And with Bhavana sharing a building with two galleries (The Dana Gallery and 4 Ravens Gallery), it only makes sense that they would be a regular venue for First Fridays.

Every blank spot of wall has been filled with the work of a local artist. This month photographer Antonia Wolf joins students from the UM Journalism Department to pepper the walls of Bhavana with images of India – a theme that goes hand in hand with Bhavana’s products. Bhavana welcomes artists and is happy to display their work throughout the month. Kim explains that it adds a great deal to the atmosphere of the store and the fact that it rotates monthly keeps things looking fresh, but the monthly exhibits do much more than liven up the walls.

Dozens of downtown business owners have embraced the First Friday tradition, not just from a love of art, but because it makes good business sense. The food industry sees an immediate return on their First Friday shows. You’re probably going to buy a beer (or more) while you’re checking out this month’s art at Draught Works – and how could you resist getting that croissant while you take a look at the joint exhibit on the walls of Bernice’s Bakery tomorrow night? So what about places like Bhavana? Are you really going to buy a new loveseat while you’re making the gallery rounds?

“I see [First Friday] as an investment. It’s part of our advertising.” – Tommy Petersen

In this way business owners and artists have a lot more in common than you’d think. Despite the large crowds showing up downtown, most artists don’t sell many pieces and Bhavana doesn’t have a record day. For both artist and business owner First Friday is an introduction. Kim tells me that they’ve had a number of sales throughout the rest of the month that were sparked by a First Friday visit to the store. And for the artist, having a month long exhibit is a great opportunity to sell works. People may not be ready to commit on First Friday, but they know where the art is, and often come back for a purchase.

For artist and business owner alike what is vital to First Fridays and what keeps them alive is the amount of venues participating. One event from one shop or gallery is likely to only reach the audience they already have. An up coming artist can only develop his or her audience if people outside his or her circle show up. However when thirty or more galleries, museums, coffee shops and other business all come together on the same night, the result is overwhelming. Kim and Tommy are committed to hosting First Friday every month and encourage other businesses to do so as well.

“If everyone participates, we all succeed” – Kim Richardson

For more information on this month’s exhibit at Bhavana and all First Friday events, visit the Missoula Cultural Council’s Gallery Guide.