Westward Bound: The New Frontier of First Thursdays and Frame of Mind by Haley Sprankle

FOM Photo The arts have become and continue to remain an integral part of Columbia with the plethora of local theaters, visual artists, literary artists, dance companies, and musicians present. While all of this art was here, not many were aware of it due to a lack of shared understanding across disciplines. That seemingly changed after the start of one, free event.

First Thursdays on Main Street.

“It started with the creation of the Frame of Mind Series. I had space in my retail location that I wanted to fill with art (as I approach my eyewear as a wearable form of art). I connected with local artists and started doing a monthly art series (Frame of Mind Series). This lead to me asking my neighbors to do something similar on the same night, the concept being strength in numbers. The rest is history,” says the man behind the screen of First Thursdays, Mark Plessinger.

Plessinger owns the eyewear boutique Frame of Mind where he not only sells unique eye wear, but also features local visual artists.

“There are two main influences [in starting Frame of Mind]. One is my experience in the eyewear industry. I have worked in almost all facets of the industry (from big box chain to small private doctor to eyewear boutique). I understand where the markets exist within the industry and what I needed to do to set myself apart from others,” Plessinger explains. “The other is art. My family is filled to overflowing with artists and I have inherited a very art centric viewpoint of the world and business.”

Plessinger’s business was located in the heart of Columbia, but is now making the move to West Columbia.

“We are going to continue to do art, just like we have always done. The big difference is going to be a change from an "alternative art space" to an actual gallery. We are establishing a roster of artists who will be represented in their "home" gallery (Frame of Mind). We will continue to do the Frame of Mind Series, but on a less frequent schedule. Also, since the space is bigger than our current space, we will be incorporating events from our Shamelessly Hot brand into the location,” Plessinger says.

With this move comes a transition for First Thursdays on Main Street as Plessinger no longer will spearhead the initiative.

“Everything transitions, everything has a lifespan. I created First Thursdays on Main based on a specific model. It was designed to give the growing retail and restaurant sector on Main Street a free place to highlight their businesses. We picked a consistent date, create a brand, and a PR arm and gave the street the ability to fill in with what they wanted to do. It was a very low cost, grass roots idea (and one that was successful),” Plessinger says. “However, like everything, the event has grown and changed. Thus a new model is needed for its continued growth and success. We have begun to partner with a local event producer with the idea of them creating a new model (with new ideas and goals). We believe that this will give the event and Main Street the best opportunity to grow.”

These new beginnings in our familiar territory of Columbia bring about a new leader.

“After Mark moves, the essential parts of First Thursdays will continue. Preach Jacobs will be taking over as the leader of the event series, but many of the same organizations and merchants will participate,” Lee Snelgrove, the Executive Director of One Columbia, adds. “There could be some delays or minor lulls in the transition and it will likely take some time to develop a similar momentum that it once had. But, there are already a few events planned for the night of February 5th. So, overall I don't think there will be much trouble during the transition.”

Although Plessinger is moving on to a new frontier, his impact on Columbia has set a standard for the arts community that will not be lost.

“One of the most amazing things about the Columbia art scene is its size and depth,” Plessinger says. “If I see a difference in our community now, it is that the city is slowly beginning to recognize that depth and size." - Haley Sprankle