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Friday, February 5, 2016

Annie Brown, Long Committed to Random Acts of Art, Wins Grant to Build Little Free Art Studios

Fort Thomas resident Annie Brown is committed to beautifying northern Kentucky through random acts of art.

Fort Thomas resident Annie Brown is committed to making our world more beautiful through random acts of art. Perhaps you remember her handmade mushrooms that one day appeared in Riggs Memorial Park, along with the poem "Mushrooms," by Sylvia Plath, written and posted on a tree. Or maybe you drew in one of Brown's Random Acts of Art books placed in various Fort Thomas Parks. Or, maybe you knew of Brown's work in the mid-1990s, when she spent her time and energy on another beautification project: Working and building mountain bike trails in Tower Park.

Annie Brown's mushrooms, installed in Riggs Park in 2013.
Today, Brown is active as ever beautifying northern Kentucky communities. Currently she's co-instigator at Pique, a new experimental art space in Covington. She teaches a homeschool art class at The Art House in Fort Thomas. And she teaches dance for Pones Inc. 

Brown has also received two Creative Community grants from The Center for Great Neighborhoods, which are awarded every six months and are based on a different theme. The first tied into Covington's bicentennial. With her grant Brown taught students needle arts that would have been used 200 years ago. "The six-week program taught Holmes Middle School students hand sewing, knitting and crocheting," Brown says. "It has been so popular, the school asked us to continue through the end of the year, and we have expanded it to include needle felting, machine sewing and jewelry making." 

Last week, Brown was awarded her second Creative Community grant. This cycle's theme was inclusion. "I am interested in fostering creativity in everyone, but particularly in areas where it is not necessarily a common thing, such as a public space," Brown says. "I want to see what people come up with and share with others." 

And with that, Little Free Art Studios was born.

"I occasionally commit random acts of art in Fort Thomas," Brown says. "A few years ago, I put handmade books and art supplies in Rossford, Highland and Tower Parks. I left directions to fill the books with drawings. I got a really positive response from that. When talking with my friend, Ann Schoenenberger about it, she had the idea of making a public space for making art, with the option of sharing it with others. It's the logical next step for my original random acts of art, so with Ann's permission to use her idea, I applied for the grant. You can see some of the drawings from the original project here

Brown says she had a strong feeling her Little Free Art Studios would be a great fit for this round of the Creative Community grant, given its theme of inclusion. "What better way to include others than an anonymous, albeit public, chance to create?" she says. "So it was a no-brainer to apply for funding to work on a project that I wanted to do anyway. The Center for Great Neighborhoods has been involved in Creative Placemaking way before there was a name for it, so it really is a great place to launch a program such as Little Free Art Studios." 

A prototype of Annie Brown's Little Free Art Studios. The design will change once its two future locations are known.

Inside each Little Free Art Studio will be pens, pencils and papers, and, if necessary, Brown says they'll also act as a desk for drawing on. "Participants will be directed to draw or write whatever they want," Brown says. "They will be able to either take their creation with them, or leave it for someone else to take. Participants will be asked to share their creations on social media using a specific hashtag. We will most likely provide a bulletin board for participants who do not have easy access to social media but still want to display their work."

Brown has already built a prototype, but says the design will change depending on the Studio's locations. Brown plans to meet with Covington officials in the next couple of weeks to determine where the Studios will be placed. She anticipates them being ready for public use in later March or early April. She plans to ask artists to post their artwork on social media using a specially created hashtag. For neighborhoods where this is not possible, she plans to have a show at the end of the gran cycle or provide a community bulletin board where resident artists can share their work. This week Brown met with a Fort Thomas official to discuss the possibility of installing some Studios here as well.

The effect this project will have on communities will be great, Brown says. "People will view their own abilities differently," she says. "They will see their neighbors differently. This will transform the public space where the studios are into a hub of creativity. I expect that the Art Studios will engender friendships and respect that may not have happened otherwise. My goal is to offer a nonthreatening way for individuals and communities to explore, expand and realize their creative abilities."

Brown says she's long been amazed at how creative people can be. "I like to see what can be done when they are given the opportunity, the supplies, and no pressure to create. I have done a similar project on a smaller scale that was very successful. The participants loved the idea and enjoyed seeing what others had created, and really got into creating their own work. When a project is successful as that was, I want to take it to the next level. The Little Free Art Studio is the next level. With a semi-permanent structure in place, and art supplies readily available on a regular basis, who knows what creativity will come of it?"

One of Brown's main goals in life right now is to help others realize their own creative potentials. "By stripping away the pretension that often accompanies art making, I hope that others will realize that it doesn't matter what they make, or what others think of it. The important thing is to make it. That and world domination [laughs]."


  1. I'd like to see some funky art sculptures around town. Might be nice if the Art House and the City could team up for a few projects that could be displayed during the Spring and Summer months. Perhaps get the schools involved or offer after school camps for the kids.