Omaha artist Tim Guthrie has a goal: Make art for the 99 percent.
He believes in it so strongly that he's giving away his artwork all year long. For free.
"I am giving away art because I want people I know and like and who have never owned original art to have some in their home," Guthrie said.
Guthrie has had the idea to give away his art for many years, but things got in the way and he never saw it through. Then, when the "99 percent" movement took off, he decided the time was right.
"Outside of my family, the one percent are really the only ones that end up with my work," Guthrie said. "So why not get art in the hands of the 99 percent?"
Guthrie said lots of his friends have told him they'd like to own a piece of his work. But even his small pieces can cost $50 or $100. He'd donated work to art organizations and auctions that gets resold, but it's still out of many people's price range.
"I decided to cut out donations and simply give my work to people I know," he said.
He started the project in January with the goal of giving away 366 pieces of art, one for each day in the year.
He set up a Facebook page where he regularly posts pieces of art that are up for grabs. To be eligible to claim a piece, a person must like his page on Facebook. The first person to leave a comment on a piece of art gets it.
Many of the works Guthrie is giving away are part of his huge "Icons" series, and many are self-portraits.
Guthrie uses Facebook tags to identify the person in the piece, if they're on Facebook, and they get first dibs on it. If they don't claim it, then anyone can claim it.
The only other rule is that each person can claim only one piece of art.
So far he's given away paintings, digital prints on wood, etchings and many icons, which are digital images on ceramic decorated with personal objects donated by the subject. One example: a portrait of Guthrie's wife decorated with a tiny tube of lipstick.
So far, the art has gone much faster than Guthrie anticipated. He gives away on average two pieces a day instead of one, like he planned.
"I will either run out by July," he said, "or end up giving away 400 or 500 pieces."
He's thinking of other creative ways to distribute the works. He'll give away one piece through a local podcast. He's planning to take some work with him to Uganda, where he's traveling later this year, and will give away more pieces during a trip to Paris, where he's presenting his work at the Sorbonne.
As much of the art as possible that Guthrie gives away for free will be exhibited in a show at Modern Arts Midtown this summer. At the end of the night, anyone who claimed a piece can take it off the wall. After that, Guthrie will ship any work claimed by non-Omahans. The only money that will exchange hands will be used for shipping the works to their new owners.
Guthrie will also show a series of new paintings: one set an homage to the late Omaha artist Kent Bellows and a second series of portraits inspired by the "Girl With the Pearl Earring" artist Johannes Vermeer. Those new, large-scale works will be for sale.
Lots of people try to offer Guthrie something in return for the art he's giving away.
"Really the act of giving is the only thing that's important to me," he said. "It is about giving. Pure and simple."
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