HAVERHILL — Saturday’s visitors to downtown ushered in the first Haverhill Art Walk, exercising their legs and appreciation for local culture.

Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., walkers dropped in on studios including those at the Burgess Building, 143-145 Essex St.

They learned about the history of the Essex Street Gateway Mural, painted on the side of 25 Essex St.

And they peered over the shoulders of plein air painters along the route.

The self-directed tour got under way at The Switchboard gallery, 43 Washington St. Owners Hailey Moschella and Sarah LoVasco organized the walk, with the help of others.

Each destination was within a five-minute stroll of The Switchboard, with stops on Washington, Merrimack, Emerson, Essex and Wingate streets.

Along the way the walkers discovered art, dance and music, as well as local restaurants and businesses.

The event was an invitation to explore and discover the Shoe CIty on foot, said artist and event organizer Debbie Shirley.

“So many times I talk to people and they say, ‘I didn’t know there were artists downtown, that these places exist,’” Shirley said.

Moschella hopes the art walk becomes an annual attraction and broadens to include other businesses and locations.

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