Working in several mediums, including his favorite — acrylics, the 26-year-old Kingston native now hopes to give back to the community through Free Art Friday. Started almost a month ago, Bearden will leave free pieces of art — canvas works, paintings on crushed tins and cans — around Cartersville. The person locating the artwork receives the piece at no cost.
“As far as I know, Free Art Friday was started by an artist out of the U.K. that wanted to start giving back little by little and it’s moved around the world,” Bearden said,
With more than 150,000 people taking part worldwide, the Cartersville resident hopes to contribute in his own community.
“I take pride in our little city ... the Main Street exit is the prettiest between Atlanta and Chattanooga, especially with the wildflowers last year,” he said. “I really wanted to help add to the beauty of the city and start the movement here. Some of my work has decorated my house for years, and it was time to let a few go and let someone else enjoy them for a while.”
In the first three weeks of his Free Art Friday movement, Bearden gave away three artworks, with the third piece lasting only 14 minutes before it was found. He hopes now others will be inspired to beautify the community and the lives of those around them
“A street artist out of Atlanta told me that he believed art wasn’t just for the pretentious and wealthy, and I couldn’t agree more,” Bearden said. “Art is for who really appreciates it, for whoever loves it and gets inspired by it. Whoever really feels something when they look at my work, even in a can — it may just make you smile and think ‘how cute.’ But if it makes you smile, I feel like I’m doing something right.”
Growing up on a farm in Kingston, the Adairsville High School graduate attended college on a wrestling scholarship, where he “studied being an athlete.” Working in construction, Bearden said he believed the arts were never “a feasible job for me.”
Today, however, Bearden often earns more through his music and art than his day job.
“I’ve never really thought of art or being an artist as a job or something I could do to make money. ... I’ve always loved to draw and paint, but it’s always been a hobby until recently,” he said.
“I work construction for the government during the day, so I may be in Helen for a few months [and] then downtown Atlanta. My family’s company renovates public housing for the most part, so I’ve seen where our taxes go and how the people it goes to need it,” Bearden said. “I get to physically help the less fortunate and now I have another way to do so. I know a lot of our community can’t spend $30 to $80 on a can or $50 to $400 on a painting. And I can sell them, but it’s so much more than making money. I work to make my money. My music and art are supplemental and nice but not a necessity.
“It’s nice to realize that people of all walks of life can love my work, love art and are moved just by looking at a can. My hope is that more and more artists start hiding their work and people take notice — that people start seeing things in places they’ve never looked before or passed daily, but that it makes them slow down to appreciate what’s there in general.”
Putting a piece of himself into each of his artworks — he never touches a piece once it’s signed — Free Art Friday also keeps Bearden a bit grounded as his artistic career flourishes.
“People can expect to start looking around town, in crevices and cubby holes, where they never would before. Every single Friday, there will be something hidden … whether it’s my favorite painting ever or just one of the cans I worked on over the week. I want you to start looking and looking at trash [differently] — at dilapidated housing [differently]. I want to change your view of the world in general,” he said. “You always hear ‘starving artist’ and that’s just not the case when you’re putting your heart into your work. I’d like to think it shows and people pay for it.
“The more and more demand I get for my music and art, the more I have to charge to justify the hours and hours I put in, which is another reason I wanted to give away one piece a week. I know I could afford some of my own things.”
Bearden’s crushed can pieces, one of the mediums he hopes to give away on Fridays, feature cans — soda, beer, energy drinks, old tins — flattened and painted.
“I love to work with acrylics and the crushed cans have been a blast and much, much more fulfilling because I’ve thrown so many away,” he said. “… I love painting faces and lettering, [I] always have, so I’ve always tried to make each one its own individual. Depending on a crease or how the can folded, [it] makes its own face for me.”
While Bearden is in talks with area stores to begin carrying his work, patrons can find him on Facebook or Instagram at @codeybearden. The Daily Tribune News also will begin featuring a photo of Bearden’s stashed giveaways in each Friday’s newspaper as part of Free Art Friday.