The monthly art-centric event Franklinton Fridays grows in both attendance and scope with each iteration. Thanks in part to the event's collaborations with art organizations and neighborhood businesses, Columbus is clearly taking notice of Franklinton and its art community.

The monthly art-centric event Franklinton Fridays grows in both attendance and scope with each iteration. Thanks in part to the event's collaborations with art organizations and neighborhood businesses, Columbus is clearly taking notice of Franklinton and its art community.

"What excites me about Franklinton Fridays is seeing the look on people's faces that're seeing it for the first time," said Jim Sweeney, executive director of the Franklinton Development Association. "Frankly, it's growing exponentially. It started small, but it's growing maybe double each time. It's still not huge yet … so about half the [visitors] each time are new. It's just such a treat to see the look of wonderment as they explore the neighborhood and find such cool things they never knew existed right next to downtown."

This Friday's event is one organizers have set their sights on. A big reason is the Columbus Arts Festival is taking place nearby - along the Scioto Mile downtown, but also butting right up to East Franklinton. Getting those art fans to experience Franklinton Fridays hopefully will entice them to come back.

"We knew well in advance that the Arts Festival was going on the same weekend. So when we were doing our planning early in the year, it was our goal to make sure … everything was running smoothly for this event. We also got as many entities involved as possible, including as many outdoor activities as we could," said Tona Pearson, chair of the Franklinton Fridays Committee. "There are certain events that happen annually that bring people around the area, but these artists are doing amazing things all year. Giving the community a chance to see what we're doing is good because it's giving people a new way to look at art. It's an approachable way to view art and that's going to make more art lovers."

The goal since Franklinton Friday's inception has been to grow and draw more visitors - this will surely be the most populated yet - but organizers want this to happen thoughtfully. The end goal isn't to make Franklinton Fridays into a huge event. Foremost, the goal is to make the best event possible for both attendees and participating artists - by focusing on the art - while presenting a wholly original event.

"I don't think any of us who're active down here are looking to replicate anything anyone else is doing. We're not interested in doing Gallery Hop in the Short North like they do it," Sweeney said. "This is a distinctly different kind of event, [not modeled] on anything else. We're trying to be organic and let it be what it is, and be ours."

The reason Franklinton Fridays has maintained a spirit of originality and organic development is it's an artist-run event. The committee is made up of artists working in the neighborhood's biggest creative center, 400 West Rich. And the events surrounding the 100,000-square-foot warehouse-turned-studio-space housing over 100 creatives are also organized by local artists. It's as simple as being proud of the artistic output.

"I'm a huge fanboy. The reason I put on group shows is because I love art and have gotten to know some amazing artists. And I geek out when I see new work. I'm in the position where I come up with an idea, and they create art and it's great," said Ralph Walters, who's curated a number of art shows and exhibits in Franklinton. "It's like being able to call Black Sabbath and say, 'I love the stuff you did when you were kids, [so] could you do an album like that?' And they say, 'Sure,' and just do it."

Walters is also the creator of Artists Wrestling League (AWL), a live-painting competition featuring local artists painting and performing as the old-school WWF-inspired personas they've conceived. The second AWL is this weekend, and its designation as a fun, accessible event - it was often outrageously hilarious during its inaugural splatter-rumble in March - is another way for those uninitiated to the Franklinton art community to feel immediately welcomed.

Artist Wrestling League will take place on the lawn of The Vanderelli Room, a gallery in the neighborhood - which also opens the "Game Show" exhibit on Friday, June 12 - that's become a hub by regularly holding openings during Franklinton Fridays.

"AWL's whole function is the essence of what this experience is down here. It's 15 or 20 creative minds willing to have a fun time and help one of their [peers] with an awesome idea. Let's put on silly costumes and [create art with] one another for three hours," said Walter Herrmann, Franklinton resident and founder of the Facebook group Art and the Artist Of … , designed to promote local art and create networking opportunities. "The Vanderelli Room has gone above and beyond to put on the most stellar exhibits and the best experience. That's helped grow a centralized area for the Franklinton Fridays experience - where everybody kind of gravitates to now. Those kinds of efforts go to why it's such a success and why people are going to keep coming back."

For Alicia Vanderelli, curator of The Vanderelli Room, it's as simple as connecting with the art.

"I'm really organic in everything I do. It's more of an emotional connection to the work. When I put together a show, all I'm thinking about is the art and artists. I need to make sure the right artists are on-board," Vanderelli said. "I'm definitely community-focused. I wouldn't say I put the shows together [out of anything but] being excited about the work, but I do want to share that with people."

While all interviewed about Franklinton Fridays mentioned the event's momentum and its role in revitalizing the area and getting the city to pay attention, the strength and future of the event and community rests in the steady hands of those who create art to showcase.

"With all these different people involved, there is something … that will touch you. Somebody will have created a piece that will make you feel like that scene in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' when they're [in the museum] and The Smiths is playing. You get drawn in, and it doesn't really matter what that painting means, it's what it means to you in that moment," Walters said. "Art is a fantastic catalyst, but not everything is going to speak to everybody. So the bigger and stronger the art scene and the more opportunity we create, then the more chances you'll see artists' work that's so good that if it doesn't touch you, you're clearly dead inside."