This spring and summer, art is yours for the taking all over New Orleans — if you know where to find it.
Described as a “social experiment” combining online interaction with real world experiences, #NOFreeArt is based on a simple premise: Artists “hide” their work in various places around the city, and the first person who finds a particular piece based on visual clues provided via social media gets to keep it.
Call it a visual scavenger hunt or street art that you can take home with you.
“It’s a social media-based project that makes you get away from social media for a while,” says the #NOFreeArt coordinator who goes by the alias John LaFeet. (While the participating artists sign their contributions, the team behind the social media accounts prefers to remain anonymous.)
While similar free art projects grouped under the #FreeArtMovement tag on social media have also been taking place in several other cities across the country, LaFeet said that #NOFreeArt was inspired by one he encountered while visiting a friend in Atlanta several years ago.
“We were driving somewhere and had to make a detour when she received an update telling her that a new art piece had dropped,” said LaFeet. “I liked the fact that it was something that made her disrupt her plans a little. She had a large collection of art she had found already, and I could see how the whole process could become addictive. Who doesn’t like free art?”
The New Orleans iteration of the project presented an opportunity for even more of a challenge.
“The NO in #NOFreeArt stands for New Orleans, of course” said LaFeet. “But it also emphasizes the fact that the art isn’t really free — you have to make the effort to get out there and explore the city in order to obtain it.”
Here’s how it works: Several times a week, photo updates are posted to the #NOFreeArt accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The photos show the works of art being “dropped,” or displayed in public places for the taking, along with some background detail providing a clue as to where the art is located.
The first person who finds the art gets to keep it and is asked in turn to post a photo of themselves with the work (tagged #NOFreeArt) to their own social media account.
“Some of the art has been found within minutes of being dropped,” said LaFeet. “Others have stayed up for a few hours or even days. It all depends on where it’s been dropped and how much effort people make to find it.”
In its first weeks, the project has given away a piece by New Orleans multimedia artist Brett La Bauve (aka Bouffant Bouffant) that was hidden underneath the Piety Arch connecting the Crescent Park to the Bywater; a giddy (and not safe for work) painted love note from recent Provincetown, Massachusetts, transplant Paul J. Rizzo placed among the gaudy neon columns of the Piazza d’Italia in the Central Business District; and a miniature recorded music device with an original composition by Lutcher-born disc jockey and event producer Mark Louque.
Other works — including photographs, collages and paintings — that have been discovered by #NOFreeArt followers have been dropped in locations in the French Quarter, Mid City, Gentilly and the 7th Ward.
And LaFeet said that those places and pieces represent just the beginning of what he hopes will become an ongoing collaborative project involving artists all over the New Orleans area.
“New Orleans is full of these amazing places and monuments that people might just drive by or only know from photos,” he said. “And there’s so many amazing and generous artists here who are willing to share their work. We’re hoping this project brings all those people and places together in a way that everyone can benefit from and enjoy.”
Follow #NOFreeArt on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to receive updates on current and future art drops. Participation, like the art, is free of charge.