Oakland's First Fridays Festival Faces Temporary Closure Due to Financial Struggles

Oakland's First Fridays Festival Faces Temporary Closure Due to Financial StrugglesSource: Google Street View
Eileen Vargas
Published on October 24, 2023

Oakland's First Fridays, an arts and community festival, announced a temporary closure for the early months of 2024. This comes in light of financial difficulties that have been piling up over time. Since its inception in 2006, the festival has become a renowned platform for local artists and food vendors, with people of color representing over 80% of the participants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Yesterday, the festival's organizers attributed financial challenges as the main reason for the pause, scheduled from January to March 2024 via Instagram. Historically, the festival has depended on local businesses, sponsors, and volunteers to survive. However, they faced recurring financial challenges to ensure the festival's continuity.

One of the factors contributing, to First Fridays' financial problems, was a proposed cut in arts and culture funding in Oakland's city budget by Mayor Sheng Thao earlier this year. Since a shooting in 2018 injured six attendees, event organizers have had to pay $24,000 per event for the deployment of 45 Oakland Police Department officers. 

Last year's bike lane construction, resulting in lost vendor space, has imposed an additional financial burden on the event, costing about $8,000 a month.

During the closure period, the organizers of First Fridays aim to secure new funding sources for the festival's ability to continue. In lieu of relying solely on city funding, they're reaching out to the community for support, according to their Instagram post. Despite these obstacles, their commitment to the First Fridays mission remains resolute.

Having attracted approximately 30,000 attendees to each of its monthly events, First Fridays has significantly influenced Oakland's cultural scene. The neighborhood art walk, which began in 2006, has become one of Oakland's most significant cultural events over the years. The Koreatown Northgate Community Benefit District, a non-profit organization, has been overseeing the festival for the past nine years.