“Sometimes I wonder what they were thinking,” artist Mary Frances Hull said with a chuckle when asked how it felt to be a part of the Free Range Art Project for a second time.
Hull was one of five artists selected to be part of the communitywide project. Her piece is called “Snail Giant.”
“It really tickles me because it tells me that someone looked at that in a group of people and thought ‘OK, that’s funny,’” Hull said. “And (then) thought someone else might look at that and go ‘OK, that’s funny’ too.”
The Free Range Art Projects purpose is to “promote art within the community through the creation of large-scale works of art installed in the public sphere throughout the city of Gainesville and Hall County,” according to a news release from Quinlan Visual Arts Center.
The art center partnered with Vision 2030 of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce to oversee the project.
Hull said her painting in the project started out as just a doodle.
“I doodle a lot of creatures and a lot of creatures in fantasy style,” Hull said. “I guess my outlook isn’t really emotionally charged, but it’s curiosity charged.”
She said she put herself in the snails position and asks a simple question: If I were a snail, what would the world look like to me?
“I think in terms of what it would be like in their shoes,” Hull said. “I guess it’s perspective charged. It’s a simple little snail, but it’s really big in his shell.”
This piece was not her first foray into free range art. For the second year in a row now, Hull’s artwork has been chosen for the project. Her first piece, titled “Two Bad Llamas,” was the result of her “obsession with drinking Coke there for a while” as Hull put it.
Although this year’s piece is quite different from the last, the overall message is the same. Hull wants people to get “a little bit of fun, a little bit of giggle” from her work.
“I like for my work to express some form of pleasure in that they recognize that it’s quirky, but in the same time, they recognize that they may have had that same thought as a child or at some time in their life,” she said. “Just a passing giggle and something to put a smile on someone’s face other than to stand there and try to figure out what was going on in my head … To recognize that there might be something in their head that’s similar.”
Since age 7, Hull has considered herself an artist. She is not new to the form of public art, either, as it’s been a big part of her career.
“I come from a background of large pieces, so I’ve done lots of public art and mosaics in the Myrtle Beach area,” she said, adding she has a large piece at the convention center there. “When I moved here, mosaics and glass works weren’t really a big thing, so I went back to more painting. I guess that would be my background — coming from large scale stuff and now I’m learning to do smaller things.”
Some of her smaller pieces are available at her art store, which is inside Quinlan’s gift shop. That relationship with the gallery in downtown Gainesville led to Hull teaching there.
“As that went along, they entitled me ‘resident artist,’” she said. “I just really find that the things I can do through here really make me feel good.”
She also works with dementia and Alzheimer’s programs and with children once a week in the housing authority program.
“It provides me with a space to do outreach,” she said. “I think just as a regular person it’s harder to find ways to touch those people and work with them. It’s a good thing.”
Following the Free Range Art Project, Hull plans to continue with public art.
“I’m just so very happy that Gainesville is really starting to embrace public art in all forms,” she said. “I just think it’s a happy time to be in the very beginning of a community that’s starting to embrace and grow through art for everybody to enjoy. There’s just so many opportunities for us to do things publicly and I’m happy to be here in the beginning of that.”