The guide that Haverhill Art Walk participants pick up Saturday at The Switchboard, 43 Washington St., has a whimsical quality that complements the walk’s adventuresome air.
A playful tone permeates the map (see the scooting white rabbit marking Stop 13: The Winged Rabbit gallery).
It invites walkers to meander looping pathways on Washington, Merrimack, Emerson, Essex and Wingate streets, and to discover art, dance and music.
Event organizer Hailey Moschella likes the idea of meandering: people wandering and exploring the Shoe City; finding restaurants not online, but in person; stepping into unknown art centers or galleries.
Along the way to restaurant art displays and gallery exhibits, art walkers will stumble upon plein air painters, their easels propped where views strike their fancies.
The free event begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 8. The nontraditional later start time only adds to the event’s novelty. And late-day’s golden light makes a splendid time to paint or take photographs.
Haverhill already has plenty of daytime events on Saturdays, including its annual River Ruckus, which is coming up on at Riverfront Park.
Moschella and other organizers sought an alternative time for the walk — promoting culture and activating the downtown in early evening.
All destinations are within five minutes, on foot, of The Switchboard. The gallery, also used for art classes and meetings, is owned by Moschella and Sarah LoVasco. It’s now exhibiting new works by artist Marc Mannheimer, an art professor at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill.
Art Walk destinations offer an array of activities.
At 6 p.m. under the Essex Street Gateway Mural, at the side of 25 Essex St., local artist Jeff Grassie will discuss its depiction of Haverhill’s rich history.
Evens & Oddities retail shop, 42 Emerson St., will demonstrate taxidermy and diaphonization — rendering reptiles and other specimens transparent, their parts highlighted with dyes.
Merrimack Valley Music & Arts at 143-145 Essex St (the Burgess Building) will host pop-up art by Moriah Lenig and Breanna Nigohosian, a poetry open mic by Jax Atlantis and a youth music showcase.
Also at the Burgess, Debbie Shirley, of Boxford, and other artists will host open studios and work on art projects as they field questions from visitors.
Shirley, who paints nostalgic New England signs and scenes, is enamored of downtown Haverhill. The district’s ornate brick buildings and less-traveled alleys attract her eye and enchant her.
She hopes others pause and discover the city’s rich cultural layers.
“So many times I talk to people and they say, ‘I didn’t know there were artists downtown, that these places exist,’” Shirley said.
Plans for the Haverhill Art Walk grew out of conversations and meetings with local culture mavens. Aboard came volunteers who in turn enlisted artists and businesses. Adam Gouveia and Joanna Sevilla designed the Haverhill Art Walk guide and map.
Last fall, the Art Walk group applied for a Haverhill Cultural Council grant and in January was awarded $1,080.
Later, in spring, Moschella and Karl Brunelle — an Art Walk volunteer — took a walk and sketched out, in their minds, a route for the event.
Moschella hopes the walk becomes an annual attraction and broadens to include other businesses and locations.
History and mystery abound in the city known for making shoes.
What better way to see the Shoe City than on foot.
IF YOU GO
What: Haverhill Art Walk
When: Saturday, Sept. 14, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Haverhill; headquartered at The Switchboard gallery, 43 Washington St.
How much: Free admission
More information: theswitchboardhaverhill.com