Drops of art: Local artist shares free art with the community

'It makes me feel good and makes other people feel good'

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A trip to Pensacola last year led Michelle Pendergrass to begin sharing her art in a different way.

“We went to a street art fair and met an artist named Rafi, and I took home one of his paintings that I loved,” Pendergrass said.

When she got home, she followed him on Instagram and saw photos of him taking part in art drops, in which he would leave free pieces of art for others to find.

“It’s a movement that seems to be gaining traction nationally, based on the number of hashtags,” Pendergrass said.

Pendergrass, who has been painting for four years and recently took up residence at the Artisan Sanctuary in Cedar Rapids, said she loved the idea of art drops, so just before Christmas, she began leaving canvases around Cedar Rapids.

In the beginning, she said she left the paintings with a note that said ‘you received a gift of art, you can keep it or pass it on,’ and a link to her website, http://michellependergrass.com.

But one day, she said she was in Starbucks and started posting clues of where to find the art on social media.

“People really seemed to have fun trying to figure out where I was,” she said. So far, she has done art drops in coffee shops, grocery stores, and the Artisan Sanctuary.

“I can’t wait for the weather to get better so I can give better clues and go to better locations. The options will open up a little more,” she said.

Pendergrass said she leads independent wine and canvas classes, and that is where many of the paintings that she gifts in the art drops originate.

“I paint with the class so I have a lot of multiples,” she said. “When I do art drops, it’s just what I have available and want to gift.”

Many of her paintings are inspired from photographs, and Pendergrass said she also enjoys painting trees.

Pendergrass said a variety of people have been the recipients of her art drops. She said one girl who found a painting had family who had been in the hospital.

“She started crying because she had such a hard time, but a stranger’s kindness made her feel better,” Pendergrass said. “When I hear things like that, I think, ‘how can I not do this?’ ”

Ideally, Pendergrass said she would like to do an art drop once a week, and “amp it up” before Christmas, because she really enjoyed giving at that time of year.

“It makes me feel good and makes other people feel good,” she said.

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