You may have seen neon fliers posted around East 6th Street or South Congress with simple designs bearing funny commentary. The messages depict living in Austin, politics, being a millennial and beyond. Friday evenings are usually the best time for spotting them, as the newest versions appear on street poles and bar flier boards as part of a project dubbed “fliers4nothin.”
“If you’re looking for secrets on the street, you might laugh and you might enjoy the city a little more. I’ll enjoy the city a little more because I get to place secrets around the street for all of the people,” the artist behind the project shared with a laugh.
fliers4nothin: Free Art for the Public
For the past year, “Courtney,” a local freelance graphic design artist, has been posting new fliers around Austin’s neighborhoods featuring original designs. fliers4nothin originated from a birthday wish to make more art, purely for the sake of creating.
After pursuing a competitive design career, Courtney felt underutilized and disinterested by corporate expectations, realizing she needed a change of pace. Transitioning to freelance work, she found the rhythm she was searching for, but still longed to invest her time in a long-term, creatively-driven project that didn’t consume too much of her time and resources. She found that artistic freedom with fliers4nothin.
Simple Designs Delivering Punch Lines
Courtney appreciated the concept of fliers4nothin due to its unique simplicity, and the fact that it’s perfectly legal to staple and tape fliers around the public block. Needing regimented structure, she decided to hold herself accountable by giving weekly deadlines for each flier’s conception and dispersion.
She spends a few hours per week sketching a new design for fliers, prints them in her studio at the Museum of Human Achievement on the east side, and heads out on the street for an hour or so in East or South Austin to post the fliers. She is able to notice which fliers have been torn down or taken, enabling her to see how people have interacted with her work without directly surveying them.
She appreciates the anonymity of the process, with fans possessing the opportunity to see her fliers4nothin tag without recognizing the artist behind it. The project serves the purposes of providing a creative outlet while brightening others’ days with lightly cynical but comical messages.
“I don’t have the greatest execution; I just have a weird mind. The fliers are where my ideas get to live, and in Austin, you don’t have to have both. People just want to see something interesting and unique. You can just be different here still. No matter what they say about Austin, this is one of the only places that lets you do that. You don’t have to be the best at something to get noticed. It’s okay to be normal; you’ll still get the message across,” shared Courtney.
Connecting to Austin Residents and Tourists
Visual communication is the artist’s primary interest, and with each passing week, she tests her audience to see whether the message she emits is as funny and relatable as she intends it to be.
Courtney and her brother, who works in the same field, hail famed graphic designer Bob Gill as their hero, citing “What would Bob Gill do?” in any given situation. Gill preaches communicating clearly, and Courtney follows suit.
She was pleasantly surprised to learn that Austin did understand her artwork on the whole, as random passerby ripped off fliers, occasionally tagging her Instagram with thoughtful stories. These moments or sharing have fueled her fire, even when she feels burned out by maintaining a deadline.
“I don’t want an art show; I just want to make people laugh. I’m trying to create something that everybody can get and to be very inclusive instead of exclusive. I feel that the higher visual world tends to be very exclusive but very unique. Then there is the craft world, which is very inclusive but very cookie-cutter, so I want to be somewhere in the middle,” said Courtney. She loves when tourists walk down South Congress and take her artwork, indicating that they feel they are receiving a slice of weird Austin culture.
Austin: Beloved Peter Pan Town
Courtney notes that it’s challenging to make something that aligns to her style and voice while being instantly comprehensible and funny. However, she enjoys the idea of making art accessible to the public in a city that is growing progressively too expensive for its artists.
While Austin breeds creativity and individuality, she notes that its housing affordability issues stifle the production of art, as artists struggle to amass the resources they need. She feels lucky to still be able to afford living here, and to possess an outlet that gives her an opportunity to connect with her city on a level she never achieved prior to this project.
“I need Austin; people in other places don’t get it. Austin gets fun and the ‘doing something for nothing’ idea more than other places. They call it the Peter Pan town. It’s a place where everyone is doing something and it makes others feel like they can do it as well.”
After celebrating the project’s anniversary with a lively shindig at the Museum of Human Achievement, Courtney mentions she may not stick to the weekly deadline anymore, in order to keep the project fresh and interesting for her. She may do it bigger and better, but she doesn’t believe she will ever charge patrons to appreciate her messages. She never wants to sully the value of creating something for nothing. For now, she feels satisfied with her weekly, free broadcasts of Austin-centric humor.
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