On a late weekday morning, Fort Wayne Free Art Collective's Jon Brown moves quickly.
With a roll of blue tape, he secures a package of artwork against the side of the Brass Rail on Broadway.
Stepping back, he briefly admires its positioning before he pulls out his phone to take a photo. Moments later, he has uploaded the picture to the organization's social media pages. Within a few minutes, the art will be in the hands of someone who can appreciate it for what it is.
Brown's work is done. The scavenger hunt has begun.
These art drops are a project Brown and the art collective do to put the community in touch with local artists.
Artists and local groups such as Tobias Studios, Middle Waves and Void Reunion provide Brown with art, CDs, stickers, buttons and other creative works. It's a goodie bag, as Brown likes to put it.
Brown then takes the packages and distributes them around town, free for anyone's taking. He uploads the photos to FWFAC's Facebook and Instagram pages, never saying the name of the place or street where the package lies as he knows many people will quickly recognize the landmarks in the photo.
“It's more fun than just saying, 'Hey, we left this specifically here,'” Brown says. “That way, it gets (you) to go out and walk around and see parts of your city that you may not normally go to.”
Brown, along with Lissa Brown and Ryan Krueckeberg, started Fort Wayne Free Art Collective in spring 2016 with the hope of getting more of the community involved in the art scene. The art drops are an extension of the organization's mission, as Brown sees them as an opportunity for people to experience art by simply walking down a city street.
“I feel like art in most communities, especially Fort Wayne, was a little bit more inaccessible,” says Brown, who's already done 200 art drops. “People felt like they had to be educated. ... It's an intimidating thing for people to get into.”
While some pieces are timeless, Brown tries to include works of artists and groups who have upcoming events or exhibits around town. The Brass Rail package featured Tiny Clementine and Let's Fest 2017, which put on their four-day comedy festival last weekend.
Having grown up in Fort Wayne, Brown has always followed the art scene. While he considers himself more of an art supporter, he feels local artists will play a big part in continuing to bring energy to a city that's turned around in the past 10 years.
But it's not just about the art itself. It is the immediate connection that's created when a person finds the package and is put in touch with the artists and their work.
Brown hopes the connection will deepen when the artist gets to meet the owner of his or her art.
“Maybe someday down the road, you'll go into their house, and be like, 'Oh, hey, I made that piece of art,'” Brown says.
Brown tries to keep the project local, as he's left the art packages at restaurants such as The Yummi Bunni and Bravas as well as Parkview Field. When he goes to other cities, he always makes sure to bring along art from Fort Wayne.
Lissa Brown has done an expanded version of the project called the Sisterhood Art Share, where she's made countless connections with artists from around the world. She recently did an exchange with an Australian artist, sending art from Fort Wayne all the way to Hobart, Tasmania.
The art exchange is something she will likely consider for the art collective down the road, though Jon Brown still likes to have that immediate effect on people from around the community.
Regardless of the location, the art packages never last long.
As the project's grown, so has its following. The scavenger hunt usually ends no more than 20 minutes after Brown posts the packages to social media.
“If you're going to be the one that's going to find this, you're going to have to have a little more investment at this point,” Brown says. “If you don't have your notifications turned on, you're probably never going to get one, because it just literally goes that quick.”
The morning at Brass Rail is no different. Only 15 minutes pass before the Brass Rail's walls are once again bare. It's perhaps what Brown loves most about what he does.
He recalls mentioning the morning's art drop to a friend the day before and seeing his eyes light up.
“They were like, 'Oh really, what time?' and I said, 'Well, you're going to have to check your notifications man, pay attention to your phone,'” Brown says. “You have to find it. That's part of the game. That's why it's fun.”