The Past And Present of First Friday Main Line

The history of First Friday Main Line and its contribution to the Main Line and around the world.
Most Ardmore, Bryn Mawr and Haverford residents have heard of First Friday Main Line, now in its fourth year. The first Friday of each month, the event brings art into the communities of Ardmore, Bryn Mawr and Haverford by displaying artwork in local businesses, as well as hosting musicians and other performers. Recent events include summer block parties and a canine costume contest.


"We do it for the community," founder Sherry Tillman explained. "We do it to support the arts and bring them into light in our community,"


First Friday Main Line was the brainchild of Tillman, First Friday founder and owner of Past*Present*Future in Ardmore. It began as an effort to bring arts into the community and bring community members together.


"I had been in business in Philadelphia for 20 years," Tillman said. "First Friday existed there already, and when I moved to Ardmore I knew I wanted to start something like it."


It took First Friday a few years to come to life, however, because of Tillman's involvement in the Save Ardmore Coalition.


"It was at least six years ago now that Sherry and I were at a meeting and she said, 'What would you think about an arts crawl in Bryn Mawr, Ardmore and Haverford?'" said Carla Zambelli, First Friday public relations volunteer.  Having grown up in an art-driven community, Zambelli said, she thought it was a great idea.


In 2006, with sponsorship by a number of Bryn Mawr, Ardmore and Haverford businesses, First Friday officially took flight. It attracted area artists and musicians, as well as community members interested in the arts.


"I don't think people realized before First Friday what a treasure trove this area was for performing artists, musicians and artists of different mediums," Zambelli said.


The decision to place art in area businesses has served two purposes: making art more accessible for community members, and providing more potential customers to area businesses.


First Friday has chosen to present art in everyday places rather than galleries, venues that may be intimidating to non-artists.  "First Friday destigmatizes art by seeing it in unexpected places like dress stores and hair salons," Tillman explained. "… It offers the community a conduit to connect to that creative world in their community."


First Friday has also brought more people to the businesses that sponsor the event. "First Friday makes people aware of the small businesses. There's a lot of talk about giving us a walkable community, but we're still a suburb," Zambelli explained. "Unless people have a specific destination, they drive right past our main streets. First Friday has given a lot of that back."


Unlike some communities in surrounding counties, First Friday is not funded by the municipality, according to Zambelli. "We do a lot with very, very little," she said.


First Friday, a registered 501C3 nonprofit, runs on donations from sponsoring businesses as well as individuals. According to Zambelli, economic conditions have led to a decrease in business sponsorship for the event. One of the effects has been a temporary suspension of the free trolley service that used to run from venue to venue each month.


"This economy has made First Friday a challenge," Zambelli said. "When the economy takes a downward spiral, some of the first things that take a hit are art spaces. But fostering art, having an appreciation of art—even if you don't know what you're looking at—makes you more well rounded."


Last year around this time, an email from a First Friday supporter prompted Tillman to create Operation Angel Wings, a project she calls "a nonprofit inside of a nonprofit." A First Friday artist explained to Tillman that he could no longer participate as a result of his deployment to Iraq. He described to Tillman the intense cold of the area and how many of the children in the mountains had no shoes.


Tillman responded by organizing Operation Angel Wings, a clothing drive that resulted in over 300 cartons of clothing, hats, gloves and shoes being sent to the area.  "The response was overwhelming," she said.


Operation Angel Wings is currently collecting monetary donations to provide books and school supplies to children in the Hindu Kush in Northern Panjshir, where only one in four villages have an actual school, according to First Friday Main Line's website. The nonprofit is also collecting toothbrushes and toothpaste.


"It just kind of happened to me—and it's probably the best thing I've ever done in my life," Tillman said of Operation Angel Wings.


Donations supporting First Friday or Operation Angel Wings can be made on First Friday's donation page. Donations are tax-deductible and can be designated by choosing from the dropdown menu. For more information on how donations are used, contact


Upcoming at First Friday Main Line in December will be a holiday celebration, complete with carolers and Santa Claus.


by Amanda Mahnke, from The Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch, November 13, 2010