Free Art Friday – A Scavenger Hunt for Art Through Detroit

By: Michael Fossbakk | August 21, 2012

One of the great things about Detroit is that it’s humble.  People from all backgrounds – rich, poor, famous, or not – can live, work and create here and be welcomed with open arms by the community.  In fact, a lot of artists I know who live out of state enjoy coming to work in Detroit because there are no pretensions and artistic elitism. Everyone encourages everyone else in their creative pursuits.

And I can’t think of a better example that illustrates this fact than through Free Art Friday.  Free Art Friday is, in simplest terms, a scavenger hunt for art.  An artist hides something they’ve made somewhere in Detroit and posts a photo clue online.  Whoever finds it, keeps it. It’s that easy! (There’s no limitation on what kind of art is created, but it is suggested that if you do find some art, to post it on the Free Art Friday Facebook and Twitter with the tag #FAFDET.)

Free Art Friday is a world-wide art event that was brought to Detroit in December by Skidmore Studio as they made their transition from offices in Royal Oak to a great new location in the Madison Building in Detroit. One of the Skidmore team members had participated in Free Art Friday Atlanta and was excited to share with the rest of the team about how much fun it was. They quickly got on board and Free Art Friday Detroit was born.  Their main focus was to “keep creativity in the city and figure out a way we could help promote it,” stated Sara Fray, a writer at Skidmore. “We wanted to know how we could engage artists and really be a part of the community.” And it works.

What started off as a tiny project with only one or two people participating once a week to an event that people start talking about days before, Free Art Friday Detroit is steadily gaining traction in the community. In fact, last week, they were integral in spreading the word about the millage that would help save the Detroit Institute of Arts from closing. They held a rally on Friday, August 3rd, on the DIA campus and kicked off the start of Free Art Friday from there. This event was special, not only because of the cause, but because they opened it up to hiding art in other communities besides Detroit. Dozens of artists – both professional and amateur – participated by hiding art from Royal Oak to Livonia and everywhere in between.  One of the best things to come out of this event was hearing people who hadn’t heard about Free Art Friday before start to talk and get excited to try it for themselves.

I’ve participated in several Free Art Fridays since this spring, and I honestly haven’t had this much fun making art in, well, I can’t remember the last time. The fact that you’re free to create whatever you feel like, and hope that someone will look for it to find and appreciate is liberating. It’s fun to try to find places to hide your art – something that’s not too difficult (you want people to actually find it!) but also challenging enough to make the hunt exciting.

And that’s not to mention how fun it is to try to figure out some of the clues left by other artists. Last week, I found an incredible watercolor Dali by Adam Klimek but trying to find it based on the clue was tough. So not only did I get to try to learn more about Detroit based on troubleshooting the surroundings in a picture, I got free art by an amazing artist, and have broadened my network of people I know in the community. That’s really the spirit of Detroit, in my mind. Sharing. Welcoming. Opening up avenues for others who might not have had the opportunity in other cities.

If you want to hide or find free art on Fridays, you can visit the Free Art Friday Facebook page to learn more, or follow along on twitter by searching #FAFDET

Here’s a quick recap on how to participate:
1. Create art.
2. Write your name, twitter handle, contact info, anything you’d like to include PLUS the tag  #FAFDET  and Facebook: Free Art Friday Detroit on the back. Or you can print and attach a note: http://www.fafdet.com/note.pdf
3. Hide your art.
4. Post a photo clue to the FAFDET facebook page and/or twitter with the #fafdet tag.
5. Anyone who finds it can keep it. The only thing that the community asks is that they post a photo or a message on Facebook to let everyone know the art was found.

Good luck!