When Marco Hope was incarcerated for 14 years, he didn’t waste his time. In fact, he set about completely revamping himself through reading and introspection. He also found a way to overhaul his career when he realized he was surrounded by a lot of untapped, unrecognized artists serving time with him.
“When you’re in jail, your family can send you funds to buy food other than what they serve and things like that,” Hope says. “What I would do with that money was buy art [from other inmates].”
At first, his concept was to use the art to create apparel like t-shirts and hats. But he realized a bigger opportunity to create an online art agency that helped promote the artists and sell not only clothing, but prints, as well. Which is how Freeflow Art Gallery, based in Peoria, AZ, was born.
With his Canon imagePROGRAF 8400 and digital-to-garment printers, Hope prints the items himself using LexJet media like LexJet Premium Archival Matte Paper and Sunset Production eSatin, which are ideal for this type of fine art reproduction.
“I used to do offset printing with typical paper,” Hope says. “So this has been a learning curve every single day. Tommy, my LexJet rep, is phenomenal with great customer service and enthusiasm. The education and advice he provides is great.”
The Freeflow site features several artists who primarily specialize in street art style, and most of whom have been in jail. What Hope is trying to do, he says, is “utilize wasted talent” and create art hubs where people can gather and express themselves through their art.
“I want to help kids in areas of poverty to know that they have an outlet,” he says. “Where there are people of a like mind, and give them a chance to utilize their talent, and not have to sell drugs or rob banks to be able to provide food for their families.”
The Freeflow site offers prints, t-shirts and hats featuring the artists’ work. Income from the online sales go to creating the art hubs and royalties to the artists, who can make income for every piece that is sold, plus a bonus once they hit 30 sales.
Hope says he’s actively looking for new artists all the time, and holds contests with prizes from $75 to $500, appealing to a target market aged 15 to 35. Next, Hope wants to reach out to businesses to support his endeavor.
“I want to be like the Orange County Chopper of Art,” he says with a laugh.