Bargersville businesses create First Friday event

On Friday night, merchants in Bargersville envision crowds of people strolling along the town’s new downtown trail on a perfect autumn evening.

They’ll be able to check out paintings, sculptures and other art created by local residents at Hope Gallery, see artist Dianna Porter in person making art in real time, and discover spa, salon and yoga services at Bargersville Wellness.

Treasure troves of boutique clothing, upcycled furniture and chic antiques await at Pump House, while rustic decor and one-of-a-kind artwork fill the Shoppe’.

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Downtown Bargersville businesses are staying up late and inviting the community to come see all they have to offer during its inaugural First Friday event. In addition to extending business hours, participating merchants are offering special activities and demonstrations to add to the excitement.

The hope is to host First Fridays every month, as the opportunity to bring more people to Bargersville and discover its charm is invaluable.

“Bargersville is growing so quickly, and we really want to get the people in our own community involved more, but also have it be a kind of destination,” said Porter, owner of Portal Unlimited. “Bargersville just put in that wonderful walking path along the railroad track, and I thought, if people are going to be walking anyway, why not stop to enjoy some art, some antiques, these wonderful restaurants.”

First Fridays are not a new concept in the art and business world. Cities such as Noblesville, with its Nickel Plate Arts District, host well-attended events in their downtown areas, with art-centric activities, music or gallery openings while encouraging people to eat at area restaurants. Carmel has a similar event on Saturdays during Late Night on Main.

Indianapolis has a massive First Friday presence, as neighborhoods such as Fountain Square and Broad Ripple organize exhibitions, musical performances, literature events and other special activities that draw hundreds of people.

That was what inspired Porter to come up with a version for Bargersville. A longtime artist, she founded Portal Unlimited in 2017. The gallery features Porter’s own original art as well as prints, and works from guest artists are available for purchase on consignment. She also does commissioned portraits and other projects in a small studio, and provides art lessons.

“I was just going to do it myself, since First Fridays have always been art related. But I thought, some of these other places might want to be involved too,” she said. “The main thing about Bargersville is, we have a hard time uniting the north end of the downtown and the main street, simply because of the layout of town. This would be a way to get people’s attention.”

Porter reached out to some nearby businesses. The Pump House, which sells vintage, restored and upcycled decor, also wanted to be involved. Bargersville Wellness thought it would be a chance to educate people about its services and raise its profile to potential customers.

The Shoppe’, with its eclectic mix of decor, furniture and other items, saw an opportunity to attract attention to the store as well. The Hope Gallery, a shop featuring artwork and artisan items while also providing opportunities for young adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism, to work, learn job skills and interact with the community, was one of the first who signed on to take part.

“We wanted to take part in this event to reach out to the community we don’t see during our regular business hours and make them aware of our mission at The Hope Gallery. We aren’t just a regular boutique,” said Natalie Underwood, manager at The Hope Gallery.

The Hope Gallery, in addition to showcasing the work in the boutique and featuring special sales, will be doing hands-on activities where people can make their own shadowboxes or bracelets, and take them with them.

“We will have shadow boxes customers will paint a design on and fill with a variety of items, MyIntent bracelets cutomers can make with their own with meaningful quote and a few special sales in the store,” Underwood said.

The Pump House has remodeled the store, and wants to accentuate what the new layout features.

At Portal Unlimited, the focus will be on artwork created by Porter’s students.

“I normally have a student show, but with COVID, I can’t get enough people in there and it would be hard to manage. I’m going to just highlight student work, having it on display in the center of the gallery, so people can wander in and wander out,” Porter said.

Also during the First Friday event, she will be doing a portrait drawing demonstration in the front of the gallery. People can stop in or outside to see art unfolding in real time.

“They can see the progression, go somewhere else and then come back to see what it looks like finished. That’s something that will really bring walkers out to the window,” she said.

Friday nights are a popular time in Bargersville, as diners head out to nearby Taxman Brewing, Johnson’s BBQ Shack or Bargersville Bar & Grill for dinner and drinks.

The hope is to catch the attention of people who are already coming downtown, and possibly give people who weren’t planning on it a reason to stop in, Porter said.

“We’re hoping we could get those customers who are already going to those places that are very popular, or coming out of those places, to come down and look around,” she said.

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Bargersville First Friday

What: Special extended hours for certain Bargersville businesses, allowing people to shop, meet with the owners and learn more about the merchants.

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Downtown Bargersville

Participating businesses

Portal Unlimited, 10 Plummer St.

Pump House, 158 N. Main St.

Bargersville Wellness, 17 N. Baldwin St.

The Hope Gallery, 74 N. Main St.

The Shoppe’, 291 E. Two Cent Road


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Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist at the Daily Journal. He has long reported on the opioids epidemic in Johnson County, health care, nonprofits, social services and veteran affairs. When he is not writing about arts, entertainment and lifestyle, he can be found running, exploring Indiana’s craft breweries and enjoying live music. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727. Follow him on Twitter: @rtrares