Free Art Friday

Taking street art to a new level

The Spectrum

The words "street art" can provoke uninformed sounds of disdain and unjustified headshakes.

The label induces images of uninspired scribbles of graffiti against brick walls and vandalizing youths who are spoiling communities.

But the idea of street art is being liberated through an intriguing movement.

Free Art Friday has made its way to Buffalo and is a global movement that spreads free art across a community. Anyone can join - there are very few limitations.

Set up and nurtured throughout the city by Jim Montour in 2013, one of the founders of Community Canvases, Montour said Free Art Friday "just sort of exploded."

"I think a lot of the traditional artists are starting to do murals and street art in the streets because it's a great way to get people who would normally go to a gallery to see their artwork," Montour said.

The initiative allows an artist to leave a piece of work on the streets of Buffalo for anyone to pick up. It's that simple. It's free art for anyone.

The project revolves around the "Free Art Friday Buffalo" Facebook page, so even in the sign-up stages it's accessible to everyone.

Once you're part of the group, there are only five simple steps to follow: like it, make it, explain it, drop it and share it.

By dropping art around the community, artists are able to spread their work to a more diverse audience. It's filling a void between galleries and vandalism - the two worlds are beginning to assimilate into one.

But more than that, it's bringing a childhood curiosity into the Buffalo art scene. The idea is that art is an everyday occurrence, not just in the paintings that line the walls of prestigious galleries.

"People who like us on social media treat it like it's a treasure hunt, we post a hint the day before and people can go and find it." Montour said. "But my favorite part is when a random person finds the piece and it makes someone's day."

Perceptions of art are being reevaluated. Art can be enjoyed in any stage. From the amateur to the professional, "there's instructions on the back [of the art] and whoever gets it has to do a nice deed for another person," Montour said. "So, if they put it next to a coffee shop, they have to buy a coffee for a stranger."

Art can make people smile and flourish within a community. Free Art Friday is an initiative that strives to strengthen a community, get its creative instincts going and help spread a smile.

Joining the initiative is free, easy and can be inspiring. Montour emphasized the group has little rigidity and no pressure.

Follow the rules, take a walk and find a hidden treasure.