Sonoma County artists send fans on weekly scavenger hunts
Equipped with no more than a smartphone and a clue posted on the photo-sharing site Instagram, online sleuths hit the Sonoma County streets each week in search of rare treasure — original art. Finders are keepers.
Local artists have been stashing small paintings, illustrations and other works in alleyways and other inconspicuous places for local residents and social media followers to find. The scavenger hunt begins as soon as the artists post a picture on their Instagram pages every Friday, giving hundreds of followers a hint as to where the artwork was hidden.
“It’s about how well you know the area,” said Djuna Barricklow, 14, of Santa Rosa who a month ago started hiding her framed watercolor paintings around the city.
Her hiding spots included Railroad Square and in between the legs of a Snoopy statue outside a frozen yogurt shop. Clues were posted onto her Instagram account, @ossieart.
“It’s also a fun game,” said Barricklow, whose parents are artists. “It gets people off their butts and gets them looking around their city.”
The undertaking is part of a grassroots movement going on in cities worldwide called Free Art Friday. Santa Rosa artist Zack Rhodes is credited for launching the Sonoma County movement last year. He first learned about Free Art Friday while visiting his father in Austin, Texas.
For the past six months, Rhodes has been hiding his paintings mainly in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Petaluma, where he works for an art supply store. He’s given out more than two dozen small paintings, placing them in shopping carts, on Peanuts statues and near abandoned buildings.
It’s a good way to promote the arts and bring more exposure to artists in the community, said Rhodes, 26, who can be found on Instagram @zr_art.
“No one really knew who I was before this,” said Rhodes, who now boasts 1,500 followers on Instagram and recently had some of his paintings displayed at the Redwood Cafe in Cotati.
“I want it to get bigger with more people involved,” he said about Free Art Friday in the county. “I want people to get out and have a newfound passion for art.”
Five artists, including Barricklow, have joined the effort, posting clues online under the hashtag #FreeArtFridaySR. More artists means more opportunities for residents to snatch up a painting.
“I put something out. (In) five minutes, it’s gone,” Rhodes said.
When it comes to hiding spots, he explained, “I try not to make it too easy and try not to make it too hard.”
Illustrator David Vega joined the movement about a month ago. He takes his wife and 6-year-old daughter out to hide his small illustrations, which he described as fancy forest creatures. They’ve left pieces under park benches, at light poles and near school signs.
Vega, who hopes to illustrate children’s books in the future, said he’s still building a following on Instagram.
“I have a high passion for art. I just want to be able to share that with people,” said the Santa Rosa man, who recently graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Vega, 28, added, “I want people to see art, to be able to love it and bring it home.”
Marco Arredondo of Santa Rosa doesn’t consider himself much of an art enthusiast, but he’s emerged as a dogged competitor in the wide field of finders. He was drawn to the challenge of the game. For weeks, he tried to get one of Rhodes’ paintings. Someone else always got there first.