She’s like the Easter bunny with penchant for the creative rather than chocolate.
With her basket in hand - and in disguise - Anonymous Artist Friend (AAF) has been dropping off mason jars filled with colourful balls of homemade play dough at benches, computer terminals, study carrels and dining tables throughout campus this spring.
All the while she has been providing an outlet for people’s inner artists, making the idea of creating art as easy as possible.
“People say ‘Oh, I’m not creative at all,” says AAF, a visual arts student who has asked to remain anonymous. “That’s not true. I believe everyone has creativity and by setting up a road block, you’re setting yourself up to fail.”
In the weeks since AAF, decked out in a Robin mask a la Burt Ward, started doing play dough drops and asking people to create something, then submit a photo of their handiwork via Twitter or Facebook, she has seen plenty of success.
Dozens of scultpures have been rolled, pinched and formed from blue, red, yellow and orange play dough and posted to social media sites, thanks in part to AAF’s altruism and a project that the combined visual arts and French major needed to complete for her visual art foundation course.
She started by leaving packages of markers around campus with an invitation to join her one day in Market Hall to do art together.
“It was amazing. People actually came and did art,” AAF says. “Not everyone did. Maybe those who found a package of markers are out there doodling somewhere. That’s OK, it was a gift.
“(At Market Hall) it was really positive and it really energized me,” she added.
Then came the course project. Using sculpture, installation and performance, the class investigated the notion of failure in artistic practice.
“Failure (in art) refers to the areas, processes and practices that sit outside cultural assumptions surrounding success,” explains Jessica Thompson, who taught the course. “When failure is released from being a judgmental term, we gain the potential to discover the unexpected - to move beyond conventional modes of making, to work between disciplines and to push the limits of materials, processes and actions.”
So AAF combined performance - her character being the masked play dough messenger - and sculpture to test what she learned about failure in class.
“I had no expectations, other than thinking I might fail,” she says. “I was spending all this time making play dough and making pleasing colours. I thought ‘What if no one picks it up? What if the jars get smashed and then it’s a danger? What if people think it’s a secret threat?
“In my heart, I was hoping people might enjoy it and that was the point.”
It’s a point that wasn’t lost on those who found her jars of play dough, either.
Soon after AAF began making her deliveries, she started receiving photos of what people had created with them.
AAF jokes that she failed at failing. She’s certain her hidden identity helped make it easier for people to reveal their creative side.
“It’s easier for people to express themselves if they don’t know that it’s so-and-so and she has done this,” she says. “I think it might be less intimidating for people. It’s about what they can do.”
Though her project and course are finished, she plans to continue playing play dough fairy.
“I’m super proud of what everyone did,” AAF says. “People started posting to Twitter and finding me on Facebook. The gift economy that I was experiencing was really great and people were really happy.”