Free Art Friday’s scavenger hunt

Follow clues around Detroit and keep the art you find

Free Art Friday

What: A scavenger hunt for free art concealed throughout the city.

Where: Somewhere in Detroit; see for the clues.

When: Every Friday.

Engaging the community at large with the arts presents distinct challenges. Detroit has seen an uptick in events that seek to break barriers between the arts scene and the general public. The latest is Free Art Friday, an artistic scavenger hunt that does away completely with two of the biggest obstacles to newbie art collectors — cost and accessibility. The concept is simple: An artist creates a piece of work, hides it somewhere in Detroit and then posts a photo clue to the Free Art Friday Facebook and Twitter. Whoever finds the piece of art gets to keep it. And just like that, an art collector is born.

Free Art Friday is a fairly recent global concept that goes down in cities throughout Europe, including London and Dublin, and in about 10 U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Santa Cruz and Washington D.C. The event was brought to Detroit in January by Skidmore Studio and has been steadily building steam since. From one piece hidden at Campus Martius on the first Free Art Friday, last Friday saw seven pieces scattered around Detroit for sleuthing art collectors to find. The event places virtually no limitations on the artists, allowing them to freely create — in order to freely give away — in any medium they want. 

Ten artists have participated so far, many of them Skidmore's own illustrators and designers, stashing a broad range of work around the city, including photography, screenprinting, illustration, painting and mixed media. According to Sara Frey, a copywriter at Skidmore, artists enjoy participating in the event because it allows them to get back to the basics of the artistic process, getting their hands dirty in order to create something with no thought to money. It also allows artists to engage with the community in a new way, putting their work in the hands of people who have never seen it otherwise.

Skidmore decided to start Free Art Friday in Detroit after staff members took a trip to Atlanta during that city's Free Art event. Frey says that a free art scavenger hunt embodies the goals the design studio set for itself when it decided to relocate from Royal Oak to downtown Detroit's Madison Building: promote creativity, celebrate art in all its forms and encourage people to explore the city. "Free Art Friday really pulled it all together and beyond that, it's fun," Frey says. "I think the response has been so great because all of those goals are ones that every artist and every Detroiter can get behind." —Megan O'Neil

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