It's probably true, the old saw that it's better to give than receive, but, to quote another old saw, it takes two to tango. Which is to say, you cannot give unless there's someone to receive — and that's where you come in. You've got to help out all the area artists who have created piles of art to give away, and for you to give away to others if you want, as the second decade of the Free Art exhibit begins. Your gift, so to speak, is to receive. At least for now. It started in 2001, when Gordon Przybyla and Dylan Metrano staged an unorthodox art show — an exhibit without a venue, where the art was free. They asked their artist buddies to contribute 50 pieces of art to be given away anonymously in December. Some artists gave 50 unique pieces, others made prints or photocopies. They made some sturdy boxes with signs that said “Free Art: Take One” and filled them with the art. They hung the boxes up around downtown Newburyport in various stores and public places, where they were picked through and emptied out over the course of the season.
It was great to be able to give away so much art at a time of year when there is such a focus on commercialism. Much of the art was unsigned, anonymous. There was no explanation of the show on the boxes, no websites for more information. The artists wouldn’t know who ended up with their art.The people who took the art wouldn’t know who made it. It was a pure act of creation and giving. Then they did it again and again. Now the show is in its eleventh year, we have seen little variance from the original concept. At one point, they lowered the number of pieces artists had to contribute from 50 to 30, to try to encourage more people to participate. And over the years, they added more cities where the boxes would be hung — Portsmouth, Portland, Biddeford and Brooklyn. Scores of artists have contributed. Many participate each year, but there are always some new faces. Last year, Burst & Bloom Press published Free Art: Take One, compiling an assortment of artwork from 2001 to 2009 — presented anonymously, in the spirit of the thing..
The Free Art Show 2011 is up now in Newburyport at Fowle's, Caffe Di Siena, Plum Island Coffee Roasters, The Firehouse, The Dance Place in the Tannery, and Ganesh Imports, as well as Ganesh Imports in Portsmouth. Contributing artists this year include Alan Bull, Derek Laplante, Dylan Metrano, Elizabeth Personeni, Eric Smith, Erika Marquardt, Gordon Przybyla, Helen Pinsky, Kathy Seekamp, Kevin Ormsby, Lydia See, Mandy Sabine, Maria Lazarenko, Nikole Beckwith, Paula Estey, Rob Napier, Tom Tolley, Trev Stair and Mia Thurlow.
There is a Free Art blog site here if you want more information.