Binghamton Art Crawl
By Erica Sanderson
Armed with only a digital camera and a notebook — no maps, street names, or gallery addresses like a good journalist should have had — I sensed impending doom. I arrived in Binghamton, NY, for the city’s monthly First Friday Art Walk totally unprepared. Little did I know, a group of strangers would scoop me up for an inebriated night of fun-filled gallery hopping.
Heading south on I-81, the drive took about an hour and 15 minutes. More than 40 galleries participate in the free cheese and booze extravaganza, so I went to take advantage.
I met gallery hoppers Bernadette, Big John, Little John, Linda, Dave, and Joan during an awkward elevator ride to Miriam’s Studio. When word broke of my First Friday v-card, the eccentric group latched on to me like a newborn to its mother’s teat. Maybe they just took pity on a fresh piece of meat — the vulnerable, sober college student.
The troupe proceeded to Imagicka, an Indian belly dancer’s dream. As I took in the atmospheric tunes, drums, jewelry, and sequined clothing, my new companions dove into the smorgasbord of free wine and snacks.
Linda, an old lady in our pack with long gray hair, looked like she walked straight out of the ’60s. My attempt at conversation with her yielded 10 minutes of spaced-out oblivion, confirming she'd took one too many acid trips in her prime. Meanwhile, Big John handed me every brochure in sight. I tried telling him I didn’t need information on the Magpie Farms Winery or Expressive Drumming and Chanting classes, but eventually shrugged in defeat.
We walked into Jungle Science on Court Street, a gallery complete with stuffed ravens and spiked metal gates. It sets itself apart with cutting-edge art, funky music, and medieval décor. I wandered through the long hallway alone until I discovered my cohorts hoarding, yet again, the complimentary cheese slices and wine.
Gallery owner Brent Williamson, who I half expected to be a sinister overlord because of Jungle Science’s Gothic atmosphere, strays from the pretentious artist stereotype. But don’t let his warm smile and subdued look fool you — Williamson packs plenty of naughty with that nice grin. Naked skydiving and tattoo dares dominated our brief conversation.
After showings, Williamson throws parties in his apartment upstairs. He displays his own photography in the sleek pad, which boasts a rooftop terrace and hot tub. He said Binghamton’s art scene thrives despite its size: “I’ve been to big cities that don’t have anything like this.”
Toward the end of the night we hit State Street, known as “artists’ row,” where the most galleries are located. As we moseyed down the block, I noticed Bernadette double fisting a beer bottle in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.
As the night wound down, I bid farewell to the kind strangers. Swimming in a sea of gratuitous cheddar and red wine, I left Binghamton with a full stomach and a good buzz — and have Big John and company to thank for it.