By Toni Momberger
There’s a block of art tucked on a window ledge in an alley, and you want it. Take it.
You’re not stealing; it was placed there for you to find.
Nick Bahula has brought the Free Arts Movement to Redlands.
In addition to selling his art, he leaves pieces around Our Town to be discovered, he hopes, by someone who might never have considered paying for art before.
“Me putting out these trinkets for someone to find could be that seed that turns them into a collector,” he said Tuesday, surrounded by art supplies and completed works in his Yucaipa home.
With a wife and three children to provide for, Bahula does want to make a profit from his trade, but he believes in art as expression.
“I liked that idea, you could spend all of this time on something and it wasn’t about getting your funds back. You make art to make it.”
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Be a part of the movement
Bahula inspires connections -- people with art, with nature or with one another -- into whatever work he does.
As a teacher, he exposed children to outdoor environments that had been foreign to them.
“I would teach them how trees form, how rocks are made. We would see the stars,” he said. “I saw that first hand, how instantly a day out in the forest can change a child’s life.
“We don’t need to teach everything 100 percent. We just need to plant seeds.”
Which brings him to his Free Arts Movement.
When he hides Bahula Blocks outside the A.K. Smiley Public Library, or against a statue by the Redlands Police Department, he is planting the seeds of a relationship with art he hopes the finders will sow and harvest.
“My art could be someone’s first art,” he said. “When you connect with a painting for the first time, that changes you.”
Social media has facilitated the Free Arts Movement, which is thriving in towns nationwide.
Bahula puts his tag on the backs of the blocks, so those who find his art can post a photo on Instagram or Facebook and Bahula will see that it was found.
Nick’s paintings have energy. To start, he puts powdered paint on the canvas and sprays them with water.
“Then I turn it, twist it, throw it around. That’s how you get the movement. I let the paint do the work,” he said. “I guess this is action painting. I’m channeling my inner Jackson Pollock.”
Art auction fundraiser next week
Over the past few months Bahula has been mysteriously losing consciousness.
Earlier this month, his heart stopped for 12 seconds. Shortly after he got to the emergency room, he had a seizure.
A week of hospitalization and a battery of tests later he still does not know what caused this.
He has been giving art classes in his home, because he is under orders not to drive for three months.
His friends in the art community are organizing a fund-raising event to help with medical bills and lost wages.
An art show and auction will be in the alley abutting Augie’s Coffeehouse, 113 N 5th St, Redlands, July 6 at 6 p.m.
To donate art or funds, email firstname.lastname@example.org.