Sacramento Community Art Chest / JM Knudsen Kevin Cortopassi


Maya Angelou wisely once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” The idea is, with the right frame of mind, one can accomplish anything, and with a negative mindset, negativity comes back to you.

If unfailing positivity makes you want to barf, you better get a bucket ready.

JM Knudsen is a Sacramento-based artist who paints, tattoos, creates clothing, does graphic design and pretty much any form of art he can get his eager hands on.

But he’s not just in it for himself. As coordinator of American Gypsy Apparel and project manager of Sacramento Free Art Drop, Knudsen endeavors not only to create art, but to create new channels for other artists to share their art and collaborate.

Sacramento Community Art Drop

Sacramento Free Art Drop consists of a painted box that shows up in various locations throughout Sacramento and is filled with donated art, free for the taking to anyone who sees beauty in it. Participant Arturo Romero says he was, “… very intrigued by the idea of creating an art hub in the middle of an ‘art desert.’ This city needs color!”

Another participating artist, Ahlo the Alchemist, shares that, “It feels amazing to be a part of such a unique and positive project. It’s cool because you don’t know who is behind the artwork, unless you’re familiar with the local art scene, and [as an artist] you have no idea who can end up with your art.”

Knudsen’s own artwork can be found throughout Sacramento in public areas, free from the monetary ties associated with galleries. This is not because the artist does not accept payment for his art, but because there are other forms of intrinsic payment that Knudsen also values. Much of this artwork consists of paintings on wood that are held up with chain, temporary adhesive or U-lock.

As Knudsen explains, if you don’t like your local art scene, change your attitude and watch the scene change, too.

Sacramento Community Art Drop

Why do you think this project was started?
The SFAD was created to spread local art throughout the community of Sacramento in a unique, new way. It was created to get the art we create as Sacramento residents in the homes of our own people, to cover the walls of Sacramento homes with Sacramento art. To inspire artists young and old to create again, to create for the first time, to inspire future artists of Sacramento and instill a sense of pride in what we can do as people here. To create networking opportunities between artist and admirer. To create a platform for unknown artists to be discovered. To give those without the ability to afford a priced piece of artwork an opportunity to own art.

Artists of all skill levels and mediums are welcome to contribute. Not a single person knows how one drop can affect the course of their lives or the City of Sacramento, so no limitations should exist with who can participate. You truly never know the outcome when you give art without expectation.

And last but not least, you can inspire another to create. No dollar can match this … Without a doubt, art saves.

JM Knudsen

Have there been any issues with the project so far, or complaints? How is the project being received by the community?
To date, there has been only one real complaint, in regards to a single local artist stating that he wouldn’t drop art in the chest because he felt doing so would devalue his art. But besides that, this project has received nothing but praise from the community.

JM Knudsen

Describe other artistic endeavors in which you’re involved—from your own artwork, to other collaborative projects.
Outside of the SFAD I am the Creative Director/Artist for American Gypsy Apparel “One of a Kind,” an artistic collaborative involving more than 150 artists, including participation in several other U.S. cities and countries. The focus of this group is promoting the idea that we are all “One of a Kind.” The Instagram account has grown to more than 20,000 followers. Some people confuse AG with a brand, AG is not a brand.

For instance, a person in Germany will commission me to design a “One of a Kind” vest with a guitar on the back. I would create that item, text my friend James Cavern for a photoshoot with the vest, and post the photo on Instagram so people can see what James does through tagging him on Instagram, then I would ship the vest.

If an artist shot photography with me for AG, I would pay them with a “One of a Kind” item. Tattoos for sculptures, drawings for haircuts, playing music at an art show for a painting—we find a way to avoid using our currency and trade skills.

In 2016 I have a project with Peace Market around 18th and O streets, with more painting and murals, making art present inside and out. Working with local artists Goop Massta, BAMR and Arturo Romero, we completed a mural on Peace Market the first week of January and we have a group art show at Peace Market together in April.

JM Knudsen

How does tattooing integrate into your experience as an artist?
Tattooing is a major part of the artistic culture. Midtown Sacramento is saturated with artists and many residents are heavily tattooed. Things I want to express the most, I get tattooed.

What is the state of the art scene in Sacramento currently, in your opinion? What’s going well and what’s lacking? How would you like to see it change?
In my opinion, the state of the art scene in Sacramento is stronger than it has ever been since I’ve lived here. Artists are really starting to come together to do tremendous things, and it’s beautiful to witness—holding events like Launch and TBD Fest that bring in big name artists to our city, and show our artists off to the city. This is bringing us forward in a major way.

The Warehouse Artists Lofts are a great addition to the community as well, a place where artists can afford to live, create, thrive and collaborate. Establishments like the Hacker Lab are a valuable resource where we can learn the tools that can get us to the next level as an artist.

Murals are popping up all over downtown where businesses are becoming more accepting of the artist’s ability to attract through art. Coffee shops like Old Soul and Insight are giving artists a chance to showcase art for 30 days.

With technology, times have changed drastically for artists—many artists who don’t use Instagram are missing out on a free platform to showcase their ability, to network with other artists, to sell their craft and to see what other artists are doing around the world.

JM Knudsen

How can people find out where the art box is going to show up and when?
To track the whereabouts of the Community Art Chest, follow the Instagram account @sacfreeartdrop. The Chest is set to be at Peace Market on 18th and O every second Saturday of the month for the Art Walk. But the chest can pop up anywhere in Sacramento.

Follow Sacramento Free Art Drop on Instagram (@sacfreeartdrop) to find out where it may pop up next! You can also learn more about American Gypsy Apparel at or on Instagram @americangypsyapparel.