Zack Rhodes doesn’t consider himself a great artist.

zackrhodesWhile we beg to differ, it’s surely true that the greatness of his art likely lies in their conceptual ideas. For the last few months Rhodes, who posts under the name zr_art on Instagram, has been hiding his small paintings around Santa Rosa, then posting clues on social media about their location. Hundreds of people wait for his clues every Friday and the game is on, in his local adaptation of Free Art Friday. Taking inspiration from a recent trip to Austin, TX, where a group of artists and crafters participate in a city-wide version, sometimes including over a hundred contributors and an untold amount of eager arts lovers who scramble around the city hoping to be the first to find art by their favorite contributors.

Zack himself doesn’t have any formal artistic training but grew up always making art and being inspired by his grandmother who was a professional artist and teacher. He enjoys the exuberant responses he gets when people find his art and he has an ever-growing following who enjoy the thrill of the hunt and an opportunity of bragging rights as the winners often post their spoils online.

I joined Zack last week on a recent stakeout of sorts. We walked around downtown Santa Rosa and talked about community, art, activism and pretty much everything else, while we found a suitable location for his latest painting. He took a quick photo and posted it on Instagram. Within minutes someone beelined for the work and swooped it up. The finder quickly went to a nearby bench and tore open the package as Zack walked up. The two shook hands and acknowledged that this was a second find for Gabe, who’d been keeping up with the game for over a month.

As they sat and talked another eager art lover ran across the grass only to be disappointed when she identified the location and didn’t see the package. She quickly scanned the area and saw Gabe and Zack and the Prize. Without hesitation she walked over and introduced herself. She’s a student at Humboldt State University who has been stalking Zack’s Instagram account from up home and was excited to actually be in town this Friday. Sad that she missed her chance to find the painting first, but thrilled to have met the artist, she left saying she had one more chance before she headed back to college.

Zack is hoping to get other artists involved and work with the city on a Free Art Fridays project this spring. In the mean time you can get involved by following his Instagram account @ zr_art