Gareth Pearson and Michael Tymbios

Founders, First Thursdays

Making museums and art galleries more popular is the idea behind the First Thursdays projects run by Gareth Pearson and Michael Tymbios.

The Cape Town duo has been running events since 2012, in which museums and galleries stay open — with free admittance — on the first Thursday of the month. Artists are encouraged to attend and interact with the visitors. Theatres, live music venues, cultural institutions and design studios are also asked to join in and stage special events too, such as exhibition openings, walkabouts or performances. Local retailers and restaurants also keep their doors open.

“First Thursdays attracts a large audience to restaurants and bars in participating areas. These make up an important part of the greater experience and add flavour to
the programme,” says Tymbios.

The events give people an unusual night out, and Pearson and Tymbios hope they will have the broader effect of encouraging young people to visit these often underused public art spaces and start collecting art themselves.

The Cape Town events have grown into one of the city’s foremost cultural experiences, attracting thousands of people every month, says Tymbios. The Johannesburg edition was launched in May 2015 and now spans Braamfontein, Rosebank and Newtown.

Pearson is a project manager who previously worked on the ArtScience Prize, TEDxStellenbosch and Spin Street House. Tymbios is an award-winning graphic designer who worked in advertising as an art director. They met participating in a Critical Mass cycle through the city.

“We both grew up in Cape Town and we’re both urbanists at heart, and First Thursdays was born out of our shared interest in the city and public space,” says Pearson. “Our working relationship is incredibly complementary. We think very differently, the result being a lot of small conversations where we go back and forth and eventually end up somewhere else entirely.

“What we’re trying to do is create cities that foster a better society for citizens different and alike to share the same spaces, get to know one another, deal with important issues, empathise, learn, be inspired, smile. Art and urban space are good ways to do that.”

The idea has also sparked similar Museum Nights. Another goal is to set up a First Thursdays Fund, which will provide artists with grants for projects that advance the arts. Pearson and Tymbios hope the fund will one day play a significant role in supporting local art production.  — Lesley Stones

Twitter: #FirstThursdays