Some art just hangs there, waiting for you to walk by. It sits on the wall, it stands in the corner. You view it, you pause in front of it, but unless there is a big hole in a large sculpture you can’t climb into it and become one with it. A lot of art, even most art, does not need you in order to exist. Yet most art, in its many forms, is about the communication of something. Be it good, bad or indifferent, art is there to send you a message. To tell you a story, inspire a thought, or create an expression of emotion.
Not all art is stationary, however. Instead, it cries out for you to get involved, to take action, to be a part of an experience. Forms of public art like the Free Pass Project are created with that active intention. That you will not just take in a message, but that you will join the communication process of the art. That you will become engaged as a participant and reach out to others.
The artist who created the Free Pass Project believes she has created an opportunity for the participant to be both the art and the artist through simple acts. The instructions are easy to follow. When you find a handmade Free Pass token, which is a quarter-sized orange disk, take one and use it as a way to extend understanding and compassion to yourself. Then take another one to hand off to someone you know, or give one to a stranger to acknowledge our common foibles and daily challenges. Encourage one another to pass the token on again, sharing the story on how a Free Pass token came into your life.
Participating through talking to a stranger and sharing a Free Pass token is joining in the art of conversation. When two passing people connect, a bridge of communication is built between them where before there was nothing. The artist who created this project believes that when something gets made that was not there before, that is art. These small orange disks are tools that can help you reach across boundaries and really see someone who you might not normally see. So do it, create, converse, and then share the experience so that we all can learn from your action.
We all have one thing in common: We share the need to have a moment’s reprieve, a pause from life’s situations and a reminder that it is okay to just breathe. Sharing your story communicates that common thread.
The creator of the Free Pass Project hopes that each token will have a life of exchanges, with multiple contacts and many positive impacts. If one token reaches three stories or three lives, then 300 tokens could positively impact almost 1,000 lives.
A number of jars full of tokens have been distributed in Rhode Island and will continue to be circulated among art galleries and favorite shops and placed on counters and information tables in places of support throughout the fall. The Free Pass Project team challenges storytellers and creatives to each bring a few Free Pass tokens into their communities, share the story, disperse them, and follow up with the experience in writing. Post a little information or even photos about interactions you’ve had on social media, and explain how the token arrived in your hands. Over time, the outcome of these small stories will let us see those things we share in our daily challenges, find inspiration or comfort from one another and document the travels of a Free Pass token itself. With Facebook as a tool, posting pictures or even videos that communicate a positive response will help to expand the impact. Most importantly, if you happen upon a Free Pass token, just participate. This art needs you to exist.
To connect or get further information, visit TheFreePassProject.org, join the Facebook page or contact the original artist at firstname.lastname@example.org. This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.