Oakland First Fridays is a monthly art walk and street festival that started in 2006 as a small art gallery crawl and today has grown into one of the Bay Area’s premier events, consistently drawing between 10,000 and 20,000 attendees every month.

art_murmurDespite its popularity, however, the event faced several challenges in 2013 and was on the verge of collapse. In the closing hours of the February event, gunfire broke out killing one and wounding three. And after several years of subsidizing the event, the City of Oakland signaled that it would end its financial support after the summer. To bolster their case for continued support, Civinomics worked with the event’s organizers to study people’s sentiments towards the event and its economic impact to the city.

The study found that the event has a very loyal following. 70 percent of respondents had attended at least 2-3 times over the previous six months. When asked if they thought the event was successful in attracting new people to Oakland, 89 percent responded yes.

A majority of respondents were unaware of the event’s financial difficulties, and 61 percent responded that they were at least somewhat in favor of the new suggested donation policy the event organizers had adopted.

The survey found that the event was successful in spurring economic activity in Oakland. Over 60 percent had purchased something from an artist or street vendor at the event, and almost a quarter had purchased something at a later date after they had seen the artist’s work. Furthermore, 60 percent of respondents replied that they remained in Oakland.

Over one third of respondents took the time to leave a comment about a First Friday experience that stood out for them. Many attested to the positive impact the event had on Oakland’s reputation:

“It is a great representation of Oakland as a complete town, and all of its diversity mixing together in a happy gathering. Nowhere else can you see so much variety in acts, interests, and people – something for everyone.”

Some respondents wrote about the shooting that took place earlier in the year and that they would feel safer with a stronger police presence.

The survey was conducted both through direct intercepts at the event on September 6th, 2013, as well as through relevant online channels. Just over one third of the responses came at the event, the rest submitting online responses.