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Take My Art, Please 

Seeking to spread happiness, a Soulard artist gives his work away

Fans of David Chase's late, great TV series Northern Exposure may recall the episode in which Chris tries to convince Holling to toss his paint-by-numbers painting into an incinerator. Chris blathers on with his usual philosophical mumbo-jumbo about how destruction is the twin of creation and how art should be about the process of creation, not the final product.

Holling winds up deciding not to sacrifice his art, but in the real world, artist Michael Freeman will. He is hosting a one-night show at Nik's Wine Bar & Hookah Lounge on Thursday that will conclude with an unusual event: The painter will toss all his paintings into a huge bonfire in the alley and dance around the blaze, speaking in tongues while casting off his clothes.

Now, that would be a sight. In truth, the Soulard artist will raffle off his works one by one at 9 p.m., giving away two dozen pastel and charcoal drawings and oil paintings for free. Why would he want to do that?

"I think I like the idea of making money off my art," Freeman jokes in an e-mail, "but I put it in the same category as democratic socialism and romantic relationships -- the reality of it is always a horrible letdown. I've always hated the business side of things. It might all go back to trying to sell candy bars in Cub Scouts."

The generous artist adds, "I would rather have someone joyously take a piece of art for free than to reluctantly give me a hundred bucks for it." Besides, he says, his newly white walls will encourage him to make new art.

The reception at Nik's promises live music, upscale booze, the spicy smell of smoke from hookahs and free art from a freethinker.

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