The Free Pass Project is an interactive, person to person, way to socially engage with active and spontaneous compassion. In version 1.0, in giving, receiving, finding or leaving a project based Free Pass token, you communicate understanding, compassion, temporary respite or resolution for yourself, someone you know, or a complete stranger. In then sharing the social story of your Free Pass conversation (via the website and IG account @freepassproject) we may come to find a community narrative on the sort of stresses and generosity we share. We can also learn about unique challenges for people and keep learning.
Posting might include a picture or story of where you randomly left, or who you gave a Free Pass to. Or you may be a recipient, or finder of a Free Pass token. Participant stories Many, many, Free Pass stories are not documented. People have kept Free Passes, or choose not to publicly share the meaning and exchange of a Free Pass token. That is perfect, too.
By documenting our community narrative of times we needed to be lifted up, we may come to find the sort of stresses and generosities we share. We can also learn about unique challenges for people and keep learning. An archive of compassion...
"Why would I do this?"
It is science that one instance of compassionate behavior compels the next person to do the same. This is the micro level of the Free Pass Project that helps change the world. A simple conversation that might start with, ‘it looks like you’re having a bad day’, crosses many social and political barriers – i.e. we’ve all been there.
For example, if you're in line at the store texting or chatting that you forgot to get apples, you've missed out on a moment to notice the people around you, and how their well being. There might be a stressed out parent with a tired toddler, or a cashier who just dealt with a crabby customer - step out of your comfort zone, and hand them a free pass.
This is a really, really good archived article on the benefits of 'unstucking' ourselves from the small risk of connection. It is a helpful 90 second read for some context for the creative public engagement of the FPP.
"How do I go about this?"
There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to 'free pass'. Be brave. Trust the reward of gesture and conversation from what might feel like a social risk. You are a super hero citizen artist when you bestow a free pass token, or share a tag on Instagram having responded to the small troubles of another.
Frequently a free pass opportunity just starts with a simple question, or statement, and you take it from there. Most people recognize it as an opportunity for grace and respite.
In my own randomly ‘free passing’ of approximately 200 strangers, only two people have absolutely showed no interest. Some don't 'get' the concept, but still say, 'thanks for my free pass', some just have curiosity and wander away, and others lock right in and simply beam.
"What is up with Free Pass tokens?"
In V 1.0 of the FPP Free Pass tokens are handmade/assembled as part of the art, and goodwill of this art. The base object is a re-purposed, vintage, poker chip. Each one is slightly unique as a little, funky, treasure to share and pass from one person to the next.
"Where do I get Free Pass tokens?"
At this time, (2023) contact me about getting some Free Pass tokens. There are not many left! (In a good way). As this social practice develops in V 2.0 the object and gesture of a free pass token will shift. To date, over 1,800 tokens have been sent to over 30 states and countries in almost every continent.
"Why is the Free Pass Project called a project?"
The original, and still true, reason is that all of us are collaborators on this creative, community, adventure. It is an active and fluid, potentially long term, social practice experiment. For folks who are participating, it is your art project. Also, there are many avenues and ways to collaborate, now, and in the future. An improvised free pass song!
"Where did the Free Pass Project start?"
I am the lead artist, and am based in New England. The entire idea of this as a community art project, and the first draft launch, happened in about a week a few years ago. Hundreds of Free Pass tokens were sent out to 'free pass ambassadors' to get started in their communities.
The first months of this interactive, public, art project are archived on the Facebook page. Take some time to scroll through posts and the page feed. Other stories recounted by you are on the site, here.
As the lead artist I am still involved in making Free Pass tokens, distributing them, participating as a ‘free passer’, and the slow build of social media participation. I also work towards collaborations with community organizations, other artists, scientists and educators.
Have fun. Keep in touch. Be an artist. Change the world.