This guest blog article is by Kendra Wright.
Fridays in Austin are becoming more than a doorway to the weekend. Thanks to local artists and social media, a weekly treasure hunt is lighting up the streets with free art and the local Austinites who are chasing it down. If you’re eager to score some pro bono goodies, lace up your tennis shoes and fire up your Instagram. Free art is on the line every Friday.
Free Art Friday, as its dubbed, is no new phenomenon. But with Austin’s love affair for all things local and a surplus of creative talent in our city, the Austin branch has caught fire.
The movement involves artists gifting pieces of original artwork to the public. By placing art in public spaces for others to discover, artists hope to brighten the day of any one who may find it.
The average person is not able to walk into a gallery and buy art, so Free Art Friday fills the space between the art gallery and street art. The goal is to make art accessible for everyone.
How to Get Free Art on Fridays
Free Art Friday has no barrier to entry. Any artist of any skill level can participate and anyone can join in the hunt.
The premise is simple. A local artist creates a piece of art, hides it within the city on Friday and leaks clues about its location. It’s no surprise, given our tech savvy city, that our local branch of artists have used Instagram as the primary platform to virally spread their clues. Fans, followers, and sometimes even accidental participants hunt down the creations by following the hashtag #atxfreeartfriday. Even if you’re just watching the show unfold via your desk job on a Friday afternoon, the interactive game is entertaining to watch.
Recently, a group of 8th graders found themselves experiencing the joy of the game. After hunting down a few art pieces on a Friday evening, their chaperon Kathy Carr posted on Instagram:
“The best part about #atxfreeartfriday is the love. People giving their gift of art, sharing a special piece of themselves with a stranger….The art may not be with the 8th graders forever – but they will always remember the love.”
Another art chaser had a hilarious mishap that landed her coveted find in Town Lake. Heartbroken, she snapped a photo of the gorgeous spray painted owl floating away down the river. The storyline unfolded on Instagram, and fellow disappointed art chasers offered their condolences (many of them were already in the area hunting for the piece).
A few hours later, Victoria Bill, a paddle boarder on vacation from Maryland, found the floating owl (luckily pretty waterproof) and posted it up for a triumphant ending to the story.
Every week brings new art, new contributors, and new stories.
Who Is Behind All This Free Art?
The local branch of Free Art Friday was kickstarted by a collective of artists under the moniker “SprATX” (pronounced Spray-TX). This local family of creatives began planting pieces around the city, but the movement quickly grew beyond them.
You can catch a few dozen artists paying it forward on the streets of Austin every Friday. From sun-up to the midnight hour, art is silently transferred from the hands of the artists who create it to the homes of those who love art enough to hunt it down.
It’s no surprise that a viral game that allows artists to connect with their community in a positive way has found such support in Austin. It’s a great testament to the influx of creatives coming to our incredible city, and Austinites’ devotion to supporting anything local.
Many local artists have found that Free Art Friday has allowed them to positively contribute to their community in a way they couldn’t have done otherwise, while connecting with new supporters of their talent.
“I’ve found that participating in Free Art Friday is as rewarding for me as it is for the individual who finds my art,” said Roshi, a local artist who was an early supporter of the project. “[Free Art Friday] has exposed my art to people who wouldn’t have found me otherwise and it’s reaffirming to an artist’s confidence to see complete strangers care enough to track down your art.”
Free Art Friday is showing no signs of slowing down, as different artists in different mediums are joining the ranks every week. Even young aspiring artists have begun contributing.
Wyatt, age 5, recently set the record for the the youngest participant in the game thus far.
Originally, Free Art Friday began with painters and mixed media artists. It has grown to include photographers, crocheted creations, custom sticker makers and young superheroes like Wyatt.
If you would love to get in the game as an artist or art chaser, you are always welcome. You can find more information about Austin’s Free Art Friday at ATXFreeArtFriday.com. All the clues are dispersed visually from artists via Instagram and can be found by searching for the hashtag #atxfreeartfriday. And don’t forget: if you find yourself collecting a piece of art, claim it on Instagram to keep the game running smoothly!
Had you heard of Free Art Friday before? What do you think?
Kendra enjoys brownies from the center of the pan and dominating her bucket list. When she isn’t hunting down all the weirdest adventures in Austin, she’s writing words at HeyKendra.com.
We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter 2 times a month. It’s where we give you a recap of our best articles and where we give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!