Celebrating Mark

Mark Plessinger Any other First Thursday evening for the past several years, if you were walking down Main Street and someone mentioned the name Mark, most anyone would know who you were talking about.

"Have you been to Mark's yet?"

"I just saw her at Mark's"

"What did Mark have to say about that?"

You wouldn't have to  use his last name, because anyone who knows anything about the arts in Columbia would know you were talking about Mark Plessinger, owner of Frame of Mind optics shop, and one of the founders and certainly the sustainer of the First Thursdays on Main arts crawl.

First Thursday got started back in the day when Mark Plessinger partnered with Mark Pointer who once ran a magazine called undefined. I met Mark (Plessinger) through Mark (Pointer) and we became instant friends. Like a lot of you reading this, Mark (Plessinger) and I share this sense of getting personal validation out of trying to make our immediate environment a place where we really want to live. We're selfish that way. I was lucky enough to watch Mark as he took over the undefined series and made it the FOM series, finally turning it into First Thursdays on Main.

I got to see Mark delve into areas of diplomacy that I'm sure he never thought would come with the job of doing something for the better good. I saw him negotiate with business owners, empower emerging artists, and bend over backwards to make sure that whoever wanted to share their creative gifts with the community were allowed to -- often on a stage he built himself. I don't know how many times I saw Mark reach into his own pocket to pay for security or publicity or any of the other errant expenses that accompany sustaining a major monthly arts event often on one's own. There is no telling how many things he ponied up for that no one knows about. And while he did it for himself, because it made him happy and because it felt good to him to be able to do so, he did if for a city and an arts community that desperately needed his specific contribution at the specific time he offered it.

Despite, or maybe because of his generosity, Mark is not a wealthy man. When circumstances with his Main Street shop and studio changed, he made the incredibly difficult decision to relocate his shop across the river, sadly leaving the business home he had opened for so many artists on Main Street. He will not be in his old space tonight -- though, happily, the precedent he set is being continued and Ivan Segura's art will be there.

Mark did what he was driven to do. He was brave. And he made Columbia a far better place than those of us who sit back and complain that our city isn't as perfect as we would like it to be.

Who knows how many people were impacted by the gracious generosity of time and spirit that Mark Plessinger gave to our city and our arts community. I'm guessing thousands.

Tonight, a few of us will gather with Mark to express our love and appreciation to him for all that he has done for us. We'll be at One Columbia about 6 pm, if you'd like to stop by. If not, and you see this tall, lanky dude on the street with a goofy smile and arms big enough to wrap around the world, you'll know its Mark. Because people will be repeating his name on Main Street, and throughout Columbia, for a very long time.

-- Cindi Boiter