After many weeks of debate and discussion about how the downtown art event on the first Friday of each month would go forward Ñ not to mention what it would be called Ñ the matter may be close to a resolution.

Two local merchants, Betsy Sandberg, owner of Rebel Bricks on G Street, and Melissa Spurlock, owner of the Sanja Studio and Gallery on H Street, are working to restart First Friday under a new name with backing from their fellow downtown merchants.

They say at least 12 merchants and galleries will be open on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. for the newly christened First Friday Art Walk.

"We're going to keep it happening," Sandberg said. "This First Friday will definitely still be happening."

Started in 1994 by three artists, the event had several organizers before local bookstore owner Ruth McGregor took it on. She registered the name First Friday Art Night in 1996 and organized the event until 2005 when she retired. She then passed on the job, though not the business name or accounts, to Pat Sheets. Sheets died in December, leaving the event without an organizer.

McGregor said she did not wish to take on organizing the event again, but also was not willing to give the name to Molly Prive, who has the contract for downtown services with the City of Grants Pass.

"I want people to know I'm not part of it anymore and am keeping the name I think is important because there might be someone who wants to go back to the original idea," McGregor said last week, though she had agreed in a meeting on Feb. 19 to pass the name to Prive, according to several people who attended the meeting.

Prive had volunteered to organize First Friday and use the downtown visitor center, her office at G and Sixth streets, as a central spot for merchants and artists who wanted to be part of the event. Prive started a Facebook page, the event's first.

A month ago, Prive hoped McGregor would let her use the name and logo to take the event forward. But realizing that might not happen, Prive said she looked into what it would take to register a new name. It was neither difficult nor expensive.

She also called a meeting for Feb. 19 of merchants who had been involved with the art walk or wished to be, and other interested parties. McGregor said she attended the meeting and said it went well.

Prive came out of it inspired to continue: "Everybody wanted to do it. The merchants want it. They want to pay for it. I felt good coming out of it. I had a plan," Prive said.

However, she said, McGregor continued to work against her taking on the volunteer position or the original event name.

"That's really why I'm not doing it," Prive said last week. "Ruth was just going to keep making it difficult."

So Prive stepped aside and made sure Spurlock was on the First Friday Art Walk business registry as the owner of the new name. Prive also passed along her notebooks of ideas and lists of those interested to Spurlock and Sandberg. The two women are working together to revive the event under the new name and have a follow-up meeting for merchants and those interested, scheduled for March 12, to discuss how the merchants want to pay for advertising and other expenses, Sandberg says.

In the meantime, artists or merchants interested in being part of the First Friday can email Sandberg at rebelbricks@gmail.com and keep an eye on the new Facebook page.

The two add that they hope the public will show their support for the event by coming downtown on Friday for the first official First Friday Art Walk.

Reach reporter Edith Decker at 541-474-3724 or edecker@thedailycourier.com

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