Rancho Cordova artists aim to spread beauty by abandoning art for others to find

A group of artists in Rancho Cordova is trying to put the city on the map in the art world and spread kindness to strangers by creating hundreds and perhaps thousands of unique pieces of artwork and then abandoning them for someone else to find.

On Thursday, the group launched a project called Abandoned Art. The artists will leave pieces around Rancho Cordova and in places they visit while traveling. The group has drops planned in the U.S. – such as at the Statue of Liberty, and in Washington, D.C., and Hollywood – and abroad, including in Hong Kong, England and India.

The first to kick off the project was a 9-year-old who traveled to Yellowstone this week and dropped her artwork at the Old Faithful Lodge.

Victoria Smith, an artist who has spearheaded this effort, said that she didn’t want anyone to “drop” until Thursday’s official start date – unless they were traveling.

“Which has been like holding back the Red Sea,” Smith said.

The effort echoes the Art Abandonment Project started in 2012 by Canadian artist Michael DeMeng, who along with his wife has authored a book on how to participate. A Facebook page started by DeMeng now has 17,331 members.

Smith said more than 100 area artists have signed up to participate in Rancho Cordova’s Art Abandonment effort, including students from art classes she teaches at Folsom Lake College and Michaels. These artists, including some from a group of amateurs and professionals called Highway 50 Artists, have then recruited their own friends and students.

Smith isn’t tracking how many pieces of art are being abandoned, but she said the response from artists has been enthusiastic. Smith had hoped painters from her classes would do five to 10 pieces each, but some have asked for hundreds of labels. Rancho Cordova Arts is helping fund the project.

A label affixed to the back of each art piece contains instructions for the finders, telling them they can either keep the artwork or re-abandon it for someone else to find. The artists also ask on the label for the finder to send a selfie with the art they found to the group’s email or Facebook page.

Hundreds of the art pieces have RFID bar code tags. When scanned, they allow the finder to use their smartphone to watch a video clip created by Monto Kumagai, a professor at UC Davis.

“He wants to share a moment in time with the community,” Smith said.

The artwork ranges from small canvases and papers with abstract and representational visuals to ceramic cupcakes and hearts.

Robyn Slakey, who has already made hundreds of abandoned art pieces, inspired the local project with her cupcake flash mob last year. While on a road trip, she saw a negative note posted on a bathroom stall. She took it down and replaced it with a piece of paper with a cupcake she painted on it.

From there, she painted more watercolor cupcakes in the car and would leave them wherever she went. Slakey also makes ceramic pieces.

“It’s really bigger than me,” Slakey said.

From there it spiraled, and now hundreds of people are trying to spread that positive message.

“I just kind of thought we could take her lovely idea so others can come out and play,” Smith said.

Smith asked contributing artists to not do anything political or provocative so that people of all ages can enjoy, she said. The youngest artist is 7 years old and the oldest is over 70, she said. People of any skill level can contribute.

Some of the contributors paint on their dining table, some do it at work on their lunch break.

“It’s just so inspiring,” said Florence Skiadas, an artist who paints flowers and drops them at the Kaiser Permanente cancer center. “Not everybody can afford fine art.”