Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bringing Back Scavenger Hunts- Detroit Style

We recently found out about something really cool in Detroit called Free Art Fridays, put on by Skidmore Studio. We talked with Sara from Skidmore Studio to get the low-down on the event. We'll let her explain it better! 

HipInDetroit - Can you give us a brief description of what exactly Free Art Fridays is for those who don't know yet?
Sara - Absolutely! Free Art Friday is a free art scavenger hunt in Detroit. Artists create art - anything from a painting or photograph to a screenprint or sculpture. They place it somewhere in the city for others to find and post a photo clue of where it is to Facebook and Twitter. Then the scavenger hunt begins! Those who find the art are free to take it home so long as they let the artist know it has been found. 

HipInDetroit - How did this awesome event get started in Detroit? And does it happen anywhere else?
Sara - Detroit's Free Art Friday was inspired by the visit of a couple of our staff members to Atlanta during their Free Art Friday. The idea of an art scavenger hunt was one that really appealed to us as a studio in that it celebrates creativity and our amazing city - two goals Skidmore set when we made the decision to move back to Detroit. (A little backstory about us: Skidmore began as an illustration house for the automotive industry in Detroit in 1959. Over the years, we added more services including marketing strategy and design and moved out to the suburbs. In the past couple years, we decided that we really wanted to be a part of the transformation happening in the city and last October, we made the move back downtown. Our new home is in the Madison Building on Grand Circus Park!)

Free Art Friday in particular is a fairly new movement that is happening across the United States and the UK. I'm not sure who deserves credit for organizing the First Free Art Friday, but I can tell you that it is currently happening in about 10 cities across the United States, including Atlanta, GA; Yellow Springs, OH; St. Petersburg, FL; Santa Cruz, CA and Washington D.C. as well as European cities including London and Dublin. 

HipInDetroit - How do you choose the artist? And how do you choose where to hide the artwork?
Sara - This is part of why Free Art Friday is so great - it is 100% open to anyone who wants to create or find art. And each artist makes their own decision about where to hide their art. At this point, we've had interest from quite a few artists, but we are ALWAYS looking for more. It's a great excuse for artists to express themselves and create something without restrictions, while also sharing their work with the public. Typically the art is left in a fairly well-travelled corner of the city. Some past drop locations have included the People Mover, Comerica Park, Library Park, Canine to Five, the YMCA, the Riverfront and the Rosa Parks Transit Center. 

HipInDetroit - Scavenger hunt's were always one of my favorite things to do when I was younger! I always got a bit competitive. Now you're using modern technology like Twitter and Facebook to give out clues. Do you think it helps you get more people to participate? About how many people usually participate? 
Sara - It has gotten pretty competitive! We've heard stories of people studying their phones, waiting for clues to come in and have seen others who have managed to swipe a piece of art within minutes of the clue going out. It's pretty exciting when that happens because it means the idea is catching on. Sometimes, clues are pretty hard to figure out and the art stays on the street a little bit longer. That might be even more exciting because it is often found by unsuspecting passers-by who become Free Art Friday fans. Just last Friday it was some urban disc golfers in Hart Plaza!

I think using Facebook and Twitter has certainly helped get more people involved because it makes everything so accessible. Anyone with internet access can see the clues posted at exactly the same time. You just have to make sure you "Like" the Free Art Friday Detroit page on Facebook and you're following a search for #FAFDET on Twitter for the latest clues.

Last week, there were about 10 pieces of art out there and about 9 people who found them. We do appreciate when our scavengers share :) 

HipInDetroit - How often does this happen?
Sara - Free Art Friday is happening in Detroit every Friday, though it happens worldwide only once a month. I guess we're overachievers! 

HipInDetroit - How would someone contact you if they were interested in creating artwork for this? Is there any other information you'd like people to know?
Sara - If anyone is interested in getting involved, I would direct them to the Info section of our Facebook page. There's a pretty good description of how it works and also instructions for how to tag your piece. We ask everyone to write their contact info (typically a Twitter handle) and the Free Art Friday Detroit info on the back:
@SkidmoreStudio (If they don't have Twitter, an email address can also work.)
[ f ] Free Art Friday Detroit
We've also been including a note with each piece that essentially tells the finder that the art really is theirs to keep. The artists are free to make their own note, but our version is also available for download on our Facebook page or here.
If anyone has any other questions, they can post them to the Facebook page, ask them on Twitter with the #FAFDET hashtag or email me at
At this point, it's really important that artists and scavengers try to post to both Facebook and Twitter. We've had some issues where mobile apps aren't allowing photo postings to the Facebook page - a problem which doesn't happen if you are posting photos through a standard computer connection (Mobile Facebook glitch). We just like to make sure that everyone has access to the latest info and it makes it easier if photos are posted through a standard computer connection to Facebook or via Twitter. 

Well, there you have it! Head down to Detroit tomorrow in this beautiful weather, figure out the clues and find, or maybe even stumble upon, some awesome, locally made art! You can see past examples of some of the artwork people have created for this at their Facebook. If you do get some artwork, make sure to show them over at Skidmore Studios, but also send it to us at or our Facebook! We'd love to see what you find!


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