The holiday season is upon us and it always makes me think of what my mom would tell my sister, brother and me as we were starting to pester her with our Christmas wish lists: "It is better to give than receive."
Of course, no child wants to hear that. The lump in the stomach, the disappointment, the worrying for what seemed like an eternity until the wee hours of Christmas morning when my sister and I would sneak down the stairs, still dark out, and see the toys spreading out in endless rings around the tree. We were never disappointed, but in those weeks leading up to Christmas, we heeded mom's advice and made sure to get our allowance together and find a way to the store to get mom a pair of amber-colored pendant earrings and dad a small tool for his collection out in the garage.
Mom was right - it is better to give and receive. And, as I grow older, I find that it is also true that if you give, you get. Not in the way you might think, though. I give away things and am filled with joy. I can't really describe why, or how. I don't really think ahead about how my daughter would really love this little book I just made.
I started embodying that holiday feeling year 'round by creating an art giveaway called The Art for Everyone Project. Giving away art is not a novel concept - there are many guerilla art give-aways going on all over the place. People leave art in books inside bookstores, or give away books on benches of parks. Art is left on people's windshields or in packages to be discovered in New York City.
I decided to start giving away some of my small art pieces because they were cluttering my creativity. I was tired of looking at them and they were not inspiring me to make more or different art. So in May, coincident with the HMB Rock the Block, I decided to give away 25 pieces of my art. I wrapped each piece in a brown paper bag, put a label on it to inform the finder that this was a gift of free art, and away I went down Main Street, leaving the bags on benches, in flower pots and even on the shelves of the everything-on-clearance Cunha General Store. Those empty shelves really needed some art packages.
To date, I have had three guest artists help me to drop more than 100 pieces of art throughout California and at the Minnesota State Fair when I visited there in August. The postcards I put in with the art come back to me, letting me know where the art has traveled to, which includes New York and even France.
What do I get out of this effort? My studio has more creative space without that excess inventory and art I created at Bad Art Night staring me in the face. I get the postcards back from new owners with notes about how happy they are to have received a beautiful gift of art. I hope to help local businesses use the project for art treasure hunts that bring in customers to their stores. As for me, I get to imagine that little jolt of thrilled surprise when someone discovers the package and opens it, finding something just for them. The smile that comes onto their face is worth it to me.
Look along Main Street this coming December 7th during the 13th Annual HMB Night of Lights for more free art.