culliganphoto / Alamy
Samantha DiMauro
October 16, 2014

The South End’s SOWA (“South of Washington”) neighborhood, a former mill and warehouse district, is now a major creative community, and home to a slew of progressive artists and galleries hitting the mark with some of the city’s most provocative and dynamic exhibitions. During the warmer months, the SoWa Open Market brings locally made artwork, a farmers’ market and a plethora of food trucks every Sunday. SoWa First Fridays, held the first week of every month, highlight the pedestrian-only, art-focused thoroughfare of Thayer Street, which is lined with art galleries, more than 60 artists’ lofts, and specialty shops. Grab a free glass of wine and mingle with an easygoing, eclectic crowd of art lovers, collectors, curators, and makers—and keep a look out for galleries choosing to premiere exhibitions specifically on this night. It’s an incredible chance to pick the minds behind mind-blowing works of art (and did I mention the free wine?).

Lanoue Gallery

This gallery is committed to showcasing mixed-media prints, paintings and sculptures by experimental artists pushing the boundaries of physical representation. During a recent First Friday exhibition, Carrie McGee’s acrylic wall decor adorned the stark white walls in bold color, while sculptor Paul Rousso’s larger-than-life, crumpled money bills and Emil Alzamora’s surrealistic human forms filled the ample floor space.

SoWa Artist Guild

If it’s the first Friday of the month, drop what you’re doing and head to this hive of creative industry, where three floors of studio space are occupied by more than 60 working artists. As you explore, finding jewelry crafters at their stations, and chatting with painters about their recent work, still wet on the canvas, you’ll sense the creative camaraderie and inspiration.

Boston Sculptors Gallery

I went here to see “Ovid’s Girls,” an exhibit of work by 12 never-before-shown female artists—six from Boston and six from Berlin, Germany—whose combined work evoked the theme of transformation. Objects commanded the large, naturally lit space like a dominant species, and guests roamed amongst the unlikely herd, stepping lightly around cocoon-like husks and hives, and tentacular, floating figures.

Gallery Kayafas

This contemporary photography gallery primarily showcases work emphasizing social issues, especially gender and identity. Kevin Bubriski’s Nepal 1975–2011 was a series of black and white, unframed, vulnerable portraits of Nepalese people taken during the artist’s term as a Peace Corps volunteer. His body of work poignantly documented Nepal’s societal evolution from an ancestral kingdom to a globalized civilization.

Bromfield Gallery

In keeping with its reputation for nurturing emerging artists, this contemporary art space holds an annual SOLO competition for New England artists who have never shown independently in a commercial gallery. It’s an incredible opportunity for young, budding artists to gain a little exposure in a big way on the Northeast art circuit.

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