Every weekend during the summer of 2003 a custom modified 1968 Chevy step-van, with the word FREE boldly painted on it’s sides and a funk-based soundtrack coming from it’s speakers, toured through one south Seattle neighborhood (Hillman City) much like an ice cream truck. But instead of selling ice cream, the van hosted local residents or families who shared, for free, what they like to make or do with their direct neighbors.
Each weekend a different neighbor drove through the neighborhood in the van handing out free homemade stuff like hand-printed t-shirts, a personal coffee mug collection, homegrown pansies, and crotchet bookmarks, or free personal services like: hair braiding, psychic readings, bike repair, dance lessons, bird calls, and personalized poetry.
The project publicly acknowledges the idiosyncratic hidden talents and resources of the neighborhood. Like a moving museum that goes out to meet its audience, the FREEmobile was a dynamic venue for exhibiting and distributing local folk culture. The truck also became the stage for a weekly interactive performance. By allowing neighbors to share what they are naturally passionate about, the FREEmobile presented a comfortable way for people to meet each other. Each host individual or family was introduced to a larger segment of their community and visa-versa. The FREEmobile also presented a model for bypassing the commercial market system of mass-produced goods and services by keeping the entire project local and homemade, handmade, or homegrown.
By Jon Rubin