How to scavenge for art in Detroit

Free Art Friday, a movement of weekly scavenger hunts for local artists’ wares, has grown internationally. Recently, by way of Skidmore Studios, it found its way to Detroit.

“Free Art Friday got started in the middle of December sort of as Skidmore was moving downtown,” says copywriter Sara Frey. “One of our main focuses was to keep creativity in the city and figure out a way we could help promote it.” It meant more to Skidmore than simply moving a business downtown. “We wanted to know how we could engage actual artists and really be a part of the community.”

When her coworker John Latin visited Atlanta, he participated in its Free Art Friday. “He came back and told me about it and I was like ‘oh if only we had a bunch of artists (blink) and people who really enjoy scavenger hunts…,’” Frey says with a grin.

Done and done, Detroit. Ever since the beginning, Latin has contributed artwork to the cause. He tends to do a lot of screen printing. “Sometimes they get really elaborate,” Frey says.

Artists contribute from inside Skidmore Studio and outside, she says.

The rules to Free Art Friday are pretty simple. Remember, it’s FREE art. You just have to find it.

First, an artist creates a piece of art. This is interpreted pretty loosely. There’s no fine art requirement. Crafters participate, too. Previous Free Art Fridays have boasted painted scenes from Saved by the Bell, mixed media illustrations and a themed piece featuring the TV show Twin Peaks. “Right now it’s been limited to a lot of illustration, painting and photography, but we’re open to tiny sculptures, big pieces… anything anyone wants to contribute,” Frey says.

So, no limit in size, medium or stature? Sounds like a pretty good challenge to me.

Second, the artists write out their Twitter handle (if they have one) and the hashtag #FAFDET alongside “Facebook: Free Art Friday” and attach them to the piece. “We were concerned people might be afraid to take the pieces, so we have a note on the back explaining things,” Frey says. Artists, of course, are free to write more. It could be a fun way to connect with their untraditional patrons.

Third, the artists hide their work somewhere in the city and post photo clues to the hiding spot. It can be done on the FAFDET Facebook page or tweeted with the hashtag #FAFDET. The first person who finds the piece is welcome to keep it. “We just ask that they take a picture and either tweet it or post on Facebook. We want to know it found a good home,” Frey says.

Free Art Friday has had its fans since the beginning, but with the weather so unseasonably pleasant, there are bound to be more people on the hunt. Luckily, there are five to six pieces contributed each Friday for followers to scavenge.

“We try to be less restrictive by using both Facebook and Twitter,” Frey says.

Still, some of the lucky participants who stumbled upon the art have never followed the clues, so it’s open to more than just social media enthusiasts. Soon after the launch, Matt Hannah, an artist from Detroit Artist Market, found one of the first pieces and decided to contribute his own 5×7 painting for the following Friday. Two new artists have recently participated and it seems like the movement is only growing.

If you’re interested in getting involved as an artist and contributing your work, you can visit the Free Art Friday Facebook page, or email Sara at

Otherwise, happy hunting!

BONUS VIDEO: Interview with Tim Smith of Skidmore Studios about Free Art Friday #FAFDET


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