Cultural critic and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
New Hamburg artist Cathy Cosgrove hopes the person who owns her latest work will be grateful, not just out of admiration for its aesthetic qualities, but also because it’s free.
Her framed creation will be left in plain view at an undisclosed location in Wilmot on Saturday, March 12, wrapped in brown paper with “Free art! Take me” written on it, waiting to be discovered by an eagle-eyed passerby.
Cosgrove is among more than 820 artists in 38 countries who are giving away their work as part of Art & Found Day.
Courtney Senior, the Canadian abstract artist who founded the event, wanted to find loving homes for some of her pieces by giving them away. Seven years ago, she packaged up original artworks and left them in different Toronto neighbourhoods for people to find. The project expanded after other artists expressed an interest.
“I thought, what a great thing to do,” said Cosgrove. “It’s not just free art. It’s a notion of finding a treasure, and that’s kind of built into my art, too.”
Instructions for participants are listed on the Art & Found Day website. Artists wrap one or more original pieces – a painting, photograph, drawing, handmade item, or music album – and include a note about themselves and the artwork. An invitation to take the package, as well as the hashtag #ArtandFoundDay, are written on the outside. Artworks are dropped off somewhere in the artists’ communities on March 12, and participants are asked to share their art drop – or found art – on social media.
Cosgrove hopes her contribution will inspire curiosity and bring pleasure to its new owner. “That’s always something that I want people to think when they look at something I’ve made. How did she do that? What were the steps involved? What made her do art this way? Why is she creating these pieces that are dimensional?”
“I want them to be tickled by it,” she added. “I’m hoping that the person who finds it has a small child, because I see it as a piece of art that would look great in a nursery. I just hope that they feel the joy.”
Cosgrove spent most of her career as an educator, until her retirement in 2013. She was an elementary teacher for nine years, a secondary teacher for English for 20 years, and then a teacher librarian.
A formulaic education system dissuades many people from exploring their creative capabilities, she said.
“I think something happens in school, that there’s such a pressure for conformity. I think there’s a lack of resources. For arts, whether it’s visual arts or music, it’s not nurtured. Kids all across this province should be benefiting from it.”
Cosgrove added, “When I was an elementary teacher, I did teach kids art, and loved it very much. As a kid, I always had such a thrill in creating things.”
She dabbled in art for fun during her early twenties. Following her retirement, she experimented with art journaling, a technique that began in mid-nineteenth century England and enjoyed a global resurgence about 15 years ago.
Art journalists “write their daily thoughts, things that happened to them, and play with art techniques,” Cosgrove said. “It becomes a way you can record your life.”
She’s used art journals to chronicle vacations with her husband, Barry Walker.
“For me, that’s what art has always been – playing. I just love it so, so much.” She uses Instagram as a way to connect with others who also enjoy making art.
The internet provides opportunities for artists to share their work beyond the walls of a gallery, because anyone can create their own virtual exhibitions, she said. Budding artists can take online courses, watch free YouTube videos to learn creative techniques, and sell their work on Etsy.
“I think it’s coming down from that platform of the elite, and is touching the lives of ordinary people like me.”
After a recent cancer diagnosis, Cosgrove underwent surgery and radiation treatment. “I’ve been given a good, clean bill of health, and a very good prognosis,” she said.
Art also proved to be therapeutic during her recovery.
“I started getting into dimensional pieces, which combines my love of creating pattern and painted surface, with kind of an architectural element to it.”
Her work is garnering attention, and she has several commissions on the go. People who have visited her home studio often want to buy pieces that are on display.
She’s currently thinking of applying to the One of a Kind juried show at Exhibition Place in Toronto this spring, although she’s slightly nervous.
“There’s no certainty I’d be accepted, but I see it as an adventure.”