Art Exposed: Lauren Lavin and Alden Knight

Back Web Only Jan 23, 2018 By Eva Roethler

It’s Friday in Sacramento. While the masses are working their way to the weekend, Free Art Friday Sacramento is facilitating an exhilarating Instagram-based scavenger hunt for incredible, free local art. Every week, the team who runs the account stay glued to their phones, reposting photo clues to help followers find jewelry, prints, stories and more that have been stowed by artists spanning the region (some as far as Lake Berryessa).

Every other day of the week, Alden Knight, who founded the @FreeArtFridaySacramento account in July 2016, operates Odd Petals, a local screen printing business, while his cohort Lauren Lavin makes a living as a freelancer as she pursues her Masters in Creative Writing. Comstock’s goes behind the screens of @FreeArtFridaySacramento to discuss the importance of accessibility in art and what the duo hopes to achieve with the project.

Related: Mayor Darrell Steinberg on elevating the city’s culture

How do you see this initiative helping artists?

AK + LL: Free Art Friday both facilitates a scavenger hunt and serves as an ever-evolving virtual art gallery where any local artist, musician, writer, jeweler or creative can have their art featured. We both make art for a living, so we know that time, effort, materials and money are required to make a piece of art. Nothing on our page is solicited, and artists often choose to contribute prints, sketches or older works rather than originals or newer pieces. This allows the accessibility and reach of Free Art Friday to not interfere with the artists’ ability to live off their work. In fact, we’ve found that many local artists and small business owners have gained customers and online traffic by participating in Free Art Friday.

Why do you feel accessible art is important to a community?

AK: Growing up, I always had art and music accessible to me. I know that I was lucky and privileged to have this experience. Being immersed in the local art and music scenes let me share my voice, thoughts, feelings and emotions through creative platforms. I hope that Free Art Friday gives local people the same feeling of having a community where they are able to share their art and show us what they are passionate about. Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and there are so many unique voices to be heard.

LL: With how quickly Sacramento is changing and how extreme our problems around housing and homelessness have become, I think the idea of accessibility needs to be championed now more than ever. Art plays a vital role in how we visualize the landscape of our community, and the more we encourage people to express themselves creatively, the more value we begin to place on the work required of that expression. I want to level the playing field and I want exposure for the artwork of folks who might otherwise go unnoticed or become displaced by the rapidly-shifting economic landscape of Sacramento.

Where do you get the inspiration for your personal creative pursuits?

AK: One of my favorite realizations was that I could use local plants to create images in the screens I used to make shirts and posters. I started going on bike rides and hikes around Sacramento and Davis just to find different types of leaves that I could use to create images. Being outdoors has always helped me focus my creative inklings, and now, every new plant I find on my adventures has the potential of being used in a piece of art.

Related: The Crusade for Art Infusion

Related: 5 Tips for Artists in Sacramento

LL: I think paying attention is the single biggest thing an artist can do to make work that reads as authentic. For me, this means paying attention to the work that influences me as well as the ways my identity affects my interactions with the world around me. On any given day, this might mean my identity as the daughter of a Mexican immigrant; as a sexual assault survivor; as someone who lost a sibling to suicide and has other intimate experiences with mental illness; as an angry woman in academia, and so on.

What do you love about the Sacramento art scene? What are the opportunities to grow?

AK: One of the things I love about the Sacramento scene is the abundance of art and music. There are shows happening every night of the week, free events at local art galleries, hands-on workshops, painting groups, and so much more. However, it is hard to ignore that often, the creative works of local artists are co-opted for commercial means in a city that has less and less affordable housing for artists. Sacramento has also been seeing the gradual loss of live all-ages music venues. I hope that in the next few years we see more brick and mortar establishments opening their walls to local art and their floor space to local music.

LL: There is art literally everywhere, here, and we’re fortunate to have organizations like Sol Collective, venue/art spaces like Red Museum and local labels like Friendship Fever who facilitate and perpetuate the creation and promotion of community-oriented art and music. I’m concerned with how quickly the socioeconomic landscape here has changed, and how along with it, people seem to be forgetting the roots of the very artwork they seek to fund and enjoy.

What do you envision Free Art Friday looking like in 5 years?

AK + LL: We just hope that Free Art Friday continues its upward trajectory … every week we get a handful of new followers and new artists who want to join in on the fun and support local art. We hope that it will maintain its status as a fun scavenger hunt activity for locals, while continuously growing an audience that will help our contributing artists fuel their passions or further their careers. One of our dreams is that eventually we will turn Free Art Friday Sacramento into a nonprofit. We would love to have a brick and mortar location where we can sell local art, host events, share resources, put on workshops and have a headquarters.

Have an artist you want us to feature in our monthly Q&A? Tweet us @comstocksmag with the hashtag #ArtExposed. 

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