Artists will now have to pay to be part of First Friday Art Walk

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A big change is coming to downtown Bakersfield and the First Friday Art Walk. The Arts Council of Kern is working to make events viable, legal and sustainable and that means charging a price for people who plan to set up shop at the monthly event.

Debbie Haeberle is a regular fixture at "First Friday" in downtown Bakersfield and says the new changes may have her selling her items somewhere else.

"A lot of my peers are struggling artists including myself, and a lot of them are not going to participate," she said. 

Haeberle is raising a young family and with a long list of expenses to worry about the new $25 permit fee to participate in First Friday she says is too much to handle.

"The fee to me is a little high especially if an artist only makes around $50 a night, half of their money will go towards the permit fee," she said.

Leaders with the Arts Council of Kern say the change is needed to help the event grow and stay standing.

"This is actually taking what has been done which has been very good to the next level," said David Gordon, executive director of the Arts Council of Kern.

Artists interested in being part of "First Friday," will have to purchase a permit to reserve a spot within the Arts Council's designated area.  The fee helps pay for liability insurance, staff time and promotions.

"There's no central agency that's covering it, there's no one that any artist or vendor or attendee can call with a concern or anything like that, it's just basically floating around out there and could be shut down at any time," he said.

The permits go into effect in August, the Arts Council of Kern does have programs to help artists struggling to pay the fee. Leaders are hoping to keep the event running for years to come.

"This gives it structure, it gives it, there' an answer, it gives it organization, it gets memberships involved, it does all of that and then it also monitors what can be sold," he said.

The Arts Council of Kern is hosting an informational meeting Monday at 5pm at their offices on Truxtun Avenue behind Mission Bank to talk about all the changes happening.  Artists are invited to attend.


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