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Trend Alert: Little Free Art Galleries for Your Front Yard

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Trend Alert: Little Free Art Galleries for Your Front Yard

September 15, 2021

Most likely you’ve heard of the little free library, a book-sharing box that anyone can install in their front yard to encourage passersby to either take a book or donate one. The next generation of little libraries? The Little Free Art Gallery. This new creative trend is rooted in the same magnanimous spirit, but instead of books being shared it’s pint-sized art—and by art, I mean anything creative: paintings, drawings, pottery, yarn works, doodles, even painted rocks. The concept is simple: leave small art, take small art, or just enjoy.

The Origin Story

I participated in this Little Free Art Gallery in Berkeley, California, built by neighbors Susie Wallenstein and Noémie Hansen. Go to @great.tiny.art on Instagram to see more from this miniature gallery.
Above: I participated in this Little Free Art Gallery in Berkeley, California, built by neighbors Susie Wallenstein and Noémie Hansen. Go to @great.tiny.art on Instagram to see more from this miniature gallery.

I first stumbled upon a mini gallery in San Anselmo, California, and then two in Berkeley, California, and instantly I knew my garden needed its own little free art gallery.

No one knows for sure who opened the first little art gallery, but in 2019 various news reports highlighted Kalie Bredo and her little gallery in Edmonton, Canada. Soon after, multiple mini galleries started popping up, especially as Covid-19 settled in and art galleries and museums closed up and creative deprivation (for both artists and art admirers) set in. Little free art galleries came to the rescue, making art accessible and democratic, with neither elitism nor high sticker prices attached. Everyone, young and old, can now be in an art show.

Our Little Free Art Gallery

My very own box of art in Mill Valley, California. You can follow @littlefreeartgallery_mv for updates.
Above: My very own box of art in Mill Valley, California. You can follow @littlefreeartgallery_mv for updates.

Situated next to our little free library, our mini free art gallery is positioned so that those passing by can sit on our massive natural wall built from river stones, in the shade of our gigantic liquid amber trees, and appreciate our tiny artworks. I’ve personalized our gallery by adding a rug from my childhood dollhouse and miniature art easels to display the pieces. A well-used paintbrush (belonging to my late artist father) acts as the unique and personalized door handle.

The Rules

Here&#8\2\17;s a miniature gallery in front of Les Cheneaux Community Library in Cedarville, Michigan. Photograph by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr.
Above: Here’s a miniature gallery in front of Les Cheneaux Community Library in Cedarville, Michigan. Photograph by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr.

The first rule of little free art galleries is that you must talk about little free art galleries! Being a completely community-based project, the real objective is to get the word out as much as possible through social media channels like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, and by making your tiny art gallery visible from the street, accessible, and inviting. Pro Tip: install your gallery in a place that doesn’t require visitors to walk through garden gates or encounter protective family dogs.

As the proud owner of this creative outlet, you become both an art curator and content manager (responsible for promoting artists with a shout-out on social media). Another important aspect is to share art far and wide, swapping pieces coast to coast, as I did with a gallery in Vermont.

How to Build A Mini Art Gallery

This little free art gallery was installed on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photograph by Joe Flood via Flickr.
Above: This little free art gallery was installed on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photograph by Joe Flood via Flickr.

I am fortunate that my crafty husband helped me build our little gallery (and our little library, too). We were also fortunate to have been able to use all recycled materials because of his assortment of materials left over from construction jobs. If you don’t have scraps lying around, you can always visit your local building supply store. Regarding the shape and size of your gallery, it’s totally up to you, your aesthetic, and garden space. My husband and I wanted ours to be one “‘room” with a modern feel and be nestled by the rock wall, but yours can be more eclectic or whimsical to reflect your garden and personality.

Once built, you can fill your little gallery with some of your art or ask family members, friends and neighbors to contribute to the opening. And please share your little free art gallery with me on Instagram @littlefreeartgallery_mv.

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