I started Free Art Friday Exeter in July 2015 as part of my “Particulart: Up in the Air” exhibition at the Glorious Art House in Exeter. It now has its very own Facebook page.
Free Art Friday is a worldwide movement that has existed for many years. Artists leave pieces in public places to be discovered and taken for free. Its founder My Dog Sighs has given a talk at TEDxWarwick. He wrote this description of the movement on its Flickr group page:
Artwork placed on the street for any member of the public to enjoy and take home — go on, make someone’s day! Post only pictures of free art please.
Free Art Friday is not an original concept. There are many artists across the world making art and leaving it out on the street.
There are no rules. That’s the joy! In order to keep a record of exclusively free art you need to make sure the work is easily removable and does little or no damage to its environment.
Some put out canvas. Others use materials found on the street. Cardboard is popular but your imagination is your limit.
P.S. It doesn’t have to be Friday!
The concept of Free Art Friday has many strands.
For the artist, it is an opportunity to create work free from the constraints of commerce, to voice an idea, shout a political message or just amuse and confuse the viewer.
Art is so often tied to a need by the artist to ‘make a living’ and constrained by gallery and dealer issues. FAF focuses the artist on the act itself, giving complete artistic freedom as opposed to considering financial and commercial limits.
Many Free Art Friday participants’ work is humorous and good natured, hoping to cheer up the walk to work of the viewer. Hoping to make them question everything. To expect the unexpected and realise that along with the need to sell, promote, fight the system and rebel, there is also a need to embellish and entertain in a non profit way without the need to cause damage to property.
The act of removing the work intrigues. Almost an act of situationist art itself. Is there guilt? Why is it taken – as part of a street cleaning operation, consigned to the rubbish heap? or coveted and displayed? Are they artists themselves? Kids, willing to steal and destroy purely for the act of rebellion or someone never faced with something completely free, not promoting or selling? After all how many things do you know that are completely free, no strings attached?
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 ’07)
I started by trying to give away my prototype for Particulart, the carbon dioxide that ended up a bit too big and time-consuming to knit. A bit of a wrench! The lady on Reception in the Exeter Civic Centre couldn’t quite grasp the point of Free Art Friday (“It’ll disappear within 5 minutes”… well, yes) and thought it better if I didn’t leave my carbon dioxide molecule there. So I took it to Exeter Library instead, and left it on a table in the café. Did anyone find it, did anyone see it and was intrigued but didn’t dare take it? Was it just binned by the café staff? Deafening silence!
There it rested until the new year and new resolutions, and I thought I’d get it going again. So I rolled up one of my prototype Soul Cube sheets into a scroll, tied with a ribbon, and nestled it among the Oxo Cubes in the city centre Tesco. Again, a deafening silence.
And then I met Cleo of Miss*C’s Graffiti Academy at an Exeter Visual Arts Forum. She knows the FAF founder My Dog Sighs, and was immediately interested, and started to crochet some beautiful butterflies to leave around Exeter and further afield.
I left a Green|Blue greetings card under a tree in Fore Street, and suddenly had my first find. I donated another carbon dioxide to a fundraising raffle for refugees (held on a Friday). After all, climate change was one factor leading to the unrest in Syria. Our last offerings (at the time of writing) were Mini Fashion Statements, tiny scrolls made in a Craftivists Collective workshop on craftivism, and left in the pockets of clothes for sale in stores around town.
Free Art Friday is what it is. Any one can get involved, leave art for others to find, and post on the Facebook page. My art is typically more political. Cleo’s butterflies are jewel-like and beautiful and have reached more people. She also inspired the set-up of Free Art Friday Exmouth, which has formed a group and will do its first drop during Exmouth Festival.
Interested? Go on, make someone’s day!