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Arts and Entertainment Monday, Jul. 6, 2020 4 months ago

Spreading the Love

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Brandon Thrift spent three weeks leaving art installations across the United States.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Brandon Thrift knew his place in the world. 

He liked to make music and share that music with others. The 25-year old drummer would constantly get up on stage with his band and play to cheering crowds in Sarasota. 

That certainty ended along with group events in general when the pandemic arrived. Losing his main source of artistic expression was a blow to Thrift.

“There was a lot of downtime,” he said. "There was a lot of time to overthink and kind of mull in the darkness and, and let all of the negativity consume me … but creative expression will find a way regardless.”

He started exploring new outlets to showcase his creativity. It wasn’t long before he knew painting was the medium for him — he said it felt right.

"It was electric,” he said. “That connection is nonstop. You just want to do it forever and ever and you forget to eat and you forget to drink water.”

 His style of painting — originally abstract expressionism in the vein of Jackson Pollack — began to shift as Thrift explored. 

He realized he wanted to be more expressive with words, and have his art convey a feeling that would help people. The vessel for that came to him in a flash — “Spread Love”.

“It's two syllables, it's enrolled anybody can absorb that subconsciously or consciously,” Thrift said. “It's received theoretically 100% of people that see it.”

Thrift was already planning a nearly three-week road trip across the American Southwest, and decided to bring his message and art along with him, sharing it with as many people as he could.

The new artist has visited countless states across the country, leaving behind painted “Spread Love” signs at landmarks and hotspots. You might have seen his work painted across a tarp hung up in New Orleans, on a piece of wood overlooking the Grand Canyon, or on a surfboard left near a World War II bunker in California. He's left hundreds more.

He’s recently returned home, and says he’s been forever changed by the experience.

“It was a divine intervention of timing and purpose,” he said.

Thrift didn’t have a destination in mind when he set out on his trip on June 1, but he did have a direction. He drove through New Orleans, Texas, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Colorado over the course of more than 12,000 miles. In each city, he would stop at a Michael’s store to pick up paint supplies and find tables, desks, and furniture on Craiglist to break down and use as canvases. 

He preferred those makeshift canvases as a way to recycle things that would be tossed away anyway. Some were small pieces of wood while others were large tarps he would hang in New Orleans. He’d research where he was traveling ahead of time and place them in photographic areas or places with high foot traffic

Thrift would create these works in parking lots and parks all over the Southwest, and was able to get a batch of signs painted and finished in around five hours if the weather permitted. People would often walk up to him to see what he was doing, and they would trade stories. Thrift said that sense of connection was one of his favorite parts of his trip.

"There was this little girl whose father I stayed with and she was you could tell in her eyes," Thrift said. "That she was so inspired by what I was doing. How much was just you could see her beaming at at the thought of what an impact it could potentially make."

He returned home June 23 and feels he's come a long way. His initial trip was just that — the first in additional trips to spread his message to other parts of the country. Thrift is brainstorming a trip up the east coast in the future. 

“I think it’s moved me but it’s also motivated me to do so much more and see what’s out there,” Thrift said. “This is a never ending project.”

Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

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