Hrusovsky said the art he displays at Crook’s is typically abstract.
“I only have one narrative piece, and that’s above the bar, and it’s called ‘Holy Cow.’ It’s a cow with a golden halo, and that satisfies my fans there,” he said.
Hamer does not charge commission, so artists can charge a lower price, but this doesn’t affect Hrusovsky, whose work has no set price.
Hamer didn’t know Hrusovsky was going to do this until the day his paintings went up.
“He just walked in, and he said, ‘There’s a twist on this,’” Hamer said. “He said, ‘They’re all for free,’ and I said, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Well, they’re for people to come up with their own price, and all the money goes to the soup kitchen.’”
Hrusovsky said he’s doing this because he wants to make his artwork in Crook’s affordable and approachable for young people. He also said he wants to draw attention to the IFC food bank, his favorite charity.
“I think it’s important to somehow deal with hunger and keep that food bank stocked,” he said. “I understand because, growing up, there were moments in my life when my family would have food insecurity, and so I know retrospectively what that feels like.”
John Dorward, executive director at IFC, said he is thankful for Hrusovsky’s project. However, he has not had much contact with the man himself.
“Paul is a really mysterious guy,” Dorward said. “He didn’t tell us anything.”
Dorward said Hrusovsky sends IFC money consistently throughout the year.
“He’s doing a very nice thing here,” Dorward said.
Hrusovsky doesn’t know how many paintings have sold or for what price. He said he was worried to find out, though he hopes to raise at least $2,000. Though Hrusovsky has received envelopes of money, he said he hasn’t looked inside any of them.
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“I’m just a little unsure of my social experiment. I’m a little nervous,” he said. “I never stopped to think, ‘Well, maybe they don’t want that artwork,’ so that was awfully pretentious of me to think that I could just put it out there and people would be fighting over it.”
In fact, Hrusovsky didn’t know it, but the “Holy Cow” painting has already been sold.
But many regulars at Crook’s Corner were still unaware of the project. Hamer said he hopes this will change when the Crook’s monthly newsletter is released.
“Very few people come in just for the art, but they like it when they waltz in there and see it,” he said. “They come in for the food, because we’re a restaurant, not a gallery.”
Hrusovsky said he paints for fun.
“I’m not one of these artists that really cares. I’m not struggling to be accepted. I don’t care what people say about the work. I’ve made it so long and been around here so long. I just want to give it all away.”