On a recent bright sunny Monday afternoon, artist Jack Scally IV strolled down Market Street carrying a piece of art about the size of a piece of printer paper. While walking, he spoke with Insider about “The Other Side of Blue,” his upcoming show at Open Community Arts Center, as well as a new part of his artistic process, something he calls “Free Art Mondays.”
After a couple of blocks, the Louisville native and self-trained artist carefully placed the art in a little recess in the side of a building, snapped a quick pic to post to his Instagram account and walked away. The art was ready for a good home, free to whomever chooses to claim it.
That distribution of his creations was in part prompted by an English artist who began leaving free art for passers-by to find.
“I was inspired by an artist called My Dog Sighs,” said Scally. “He started seeing Banksy pop up and was inspired by the political movements and political views, but he was a little too old to start to graffiti. So he decided, ‘OK, why not leave artwork around town?’ ”
Unlike Sighs, for Scally, free art isn’t about the political aspect, instead it comes from a personal reflection.
“I’ve been in a weird place with my artwork,” he said. “I like doing shows, but they are so stressful, and art should be something you use to express yourself.”
That “weird place” was in part created by the business side of art.
“Selling it is not what the artwork was about. I had to realize that,” he admitted. “From 2014 to 2017, all I was doing was trying to sell my art. I was trying to promote myself, get people to buy it.”
Free Art Mondays avoids the stress and removes Scally from the anxiety created by the process of selling art, and after he began leaving art for people to find, he discovered another benefit.
“It kind of evolved, because I realized I like making people happy, and if I can make people happy because they just found art on the sidewalk … to just know that maybe I made somebody’s day,” said Scally.
Scally has tried to track his art post-drop-off through social media and hashtags, but he hasn’t had a lot of luck.
“I try, but I think a lot of people, like me, have social anxiety, so it’s rare for them to reach back out unless they already know who I am,” he said.
Scally usually creates the art, frequently small pieces, the Sunday before he gives it away.
Open Community Arts Center, the community center/art gallery hosting “The Other Side of Blue,” is slightly more conventional than a sidewalk, but the DIY spirit of sharing art with the people is very much in line with Open, which frequently hosts open mics and punk rock shows.
Scally didn’t create a body of work for his show at Open, rather he curated existing inventory around the color blue.
“Most of the pieces consist of the psychedelic abstract stuff I do, or just my watercolors,” he explained. “But they all have their own stories, they all speak or themselves. They don’t really correlate with each other.”
The color blue itself doesn’t have a consistent meaning, and certainly not the meaning frequently found in pop culture.
“I was talking to this woman, and she asked me if the reason I was using blue was because I was sad, and I was, like, ‘No, I’m not that sad all the time.’”
Scally’s social media has seen an uptick in traffic due to Free Art Mondays, but he hasn’t been using his increased profile to promote “The Other Side of Blue.” Instead, he’s gone the opposite route.
“The show has been really secret, because I’ve noticed something — if I post my stuff online, not many people come out and see it, because they’ve already seen it and they don’t want to go out and take the time. So I wanted to be as secret as possible before the show,” he said.
Whether it’s on the street, on the internet or at the gallery, one thing remains consistent for Scally.
“What I get most from it — when someone comes up to me and starts talking to me about how they feel about my artwork and what it makes him think — that makes me feel better. I’m more motivated by human emotion, human thought and human cognitive.”
“The Other Side of Blue” is now hanging at Open, 2801 S. Floyd St. The gallery is open from noon to midnight every day.