Free Art Friday: A Global Art Movement Everyone Can Appreciate

Imagine you’re walking down the street, minding your own business. Maybe you’re having an ice cream cone. Maybe you’re walking your Chihuahua (we’ll call her Mimi). Maybe you’re off to the store for a six pack of local micro-brews and some Skittles.

Then, BOOM! There it is, off to the side of the street. It’s on a random store front or window ledge. It’s hanging from a lamp post. It’s sitting on a bench. And it catches your eye because it’s a random, beautiful piece of art in a place where there probably shouldn’t be art. And there’s a tag on it that say: Free art. I’m yours. Take me home.

This is the nature of the newest global art movement: Free Art Fridays. "My Dog Sighs can be credited with galvanizing the Free Art Movement when he coined the phrase ‘Free art Friday.’ After several years he started his Flickr group in 2006. He has never wavered in his commitment, and his encouragement of others participating has made him a leader in the movement," according to the Free Art Friday blog.

Reveling in the freedom of the way free art works, whether as a way to brighten someone’s walk to work or as a way to engage the world with ideas, whether canvas or vinyl or rock, or upcycled materials, My Dog Sighs says that, "All street artists, whether producing static or removable art, hope to promote discussion in one form or other. ‘Talk about me and my work’, ‘Question the images thrown at you,’ or ‘Use your political power.’"

My Dog Sighs readily admits that, "Free Art Friday is not an original concept, and that artists all over the world create and leave art in the streets for free. The organized Free Art Friday movement was born in England, but nobody owns it." So how do you get started? Let’s look at a recent group.

Davis, Calif. Free Art Friday is one of the newest members of this global movement. (Disclaimer: I’m the guy who started it, with my friend Matthew Hatfield and other art lovers in our community). We were inspired by artists around the world doing gorgeous work, like Cherie Strong, and FAF organizers like David Archer in Santa Barbara, Calif. We decided to organize, so we started a Facebook page, painted a DAVIS FAF graffiti piece for our cover photo, began making art, and will give it out for the first time on Friday, March 22, the first Friday of spring. We’ll continue doing this every fourth Friday of each month, as a balance to the City of Davis’ 2nd Friday Art About event.

2nd Friday ArtAbout is billed as "a monthly evening of art viewing and artists’ receptions at galleries and businesses in Downtown Davis and beyond. Coordinated by the Davis Downtown Business Association, all events are free and open to the public."

The coordination of Davis, Calif. FAF should not be seen as contrary to this event, but as balance. The "About" section of the Davis, Calif. FAF Facebook group is explicit in this point, adding that, "Art doesn't need to be behind velvet ropes or curtains, it doesn't need to be in galleries or museums, it doesn't need to be shown in businesses as a client draw. All of that is cool, but we want to bring art to the people as a gift."

People are taking notice. Positive press from Wisconsin to Australia to Milan has folks contributing beauty in the form of free art the world over. Check out what the BBC has to say about it. This is a segment from The Culture Show covering Free Art Friday and the free art movement:

You can participate, too. Making art doesn’t need to be something only great artists, or trained artists, or professional artists do. Some of the best pieces I’ve seen were completely unfathomable before I saw them: origami bookmarks distributed in libraries or art on a flash drive placed as a digital note in a bottle.

You, too, can help brighten up the streets and lives around you.

Here's how it works:

1. Create a piece of art. Drawing, painting, poetry, etc.

2. Write on an attached tag  "free art to take home and enjoy" or something as lovely. Adding artist name, email, or web address is optional.

3. Place somewhere in public indoors or out. Easy or hard, it's up to you.

4. Some make a game out of it and leave clues on Twitter, Facebook, geocache, or make it a scavenger hunt.

5. It’s NOT an exclusive group or movement, ANYBODY can join in. THIS MEANS YOU.

For an almost full list of FAF groups all over the world and FAF in the news, click here.