You’ve heard of little free libraries, but have you ever heard of a little free art gallery? Well, that’s exactly what Stacy Milrany of Seattle, Washington, started, and we think it’s an amazing idea!
Her idea for the project came after her mother’s battle with cancer. Milrany lives about 2.5 hours away from her mother’s home in Portland, Oregon, and wanted to do something to bring her a little bit of joy during her treatment, so she decided to make miniature artworks and send them to her mom through the mail.
“I decided if I couldn’t be with her every day she was going through treatment, I could offer a little piece of something via UPS every single day — something made by a human hand to add some brightness to those dark days.”
Milrany’s mother is now recovered and doing well, but when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the planet, Milrany decided to expand the idea and start spreading her cheering artwork to others. She called the project “Dose of Art.”
“I had all these extra little pieces of art, and I thought it would be a perfect way to showcase them and give people something to look at during the pandemic because we were all cut off from going to museums and galleries,” she says.
Milrany’s Little Free Art Gallery opened to the public on December 13th. The birdhouse-like mini-museum sits five feet off the ground and is painted a clean white inside just like a real art museum. Her gallery features artwork that’s all small enough to fit in a pocket (and tiny plastic spectators), and she encourages people to take what they like and leave something of their own behind for others to look at.
“The idea is pretty simple — anyone is welcome to leave a piece, take a piece or just have a look around and enjoy what’s inside,” says Milrany, a painter who runs a small, appointment-only gallery.
Milrany’s isn’t the only little free art gallery, though—there are others in places like Austin, Wisconsin, and Edmonton, Canada. But we think it’s a brilliant idea that deserves to be spread much farther and wider than it has been thus far.
“I suppose my larger intention was to add some light, levity, and beauty to an otherwise dismal year,” she says.
And it seems others are appreciating the idea too. In the few months that the art gallery has been open, about 100 pieces have already come and gone. Art featuring bulldogs, masked heroes, and even a chicken farmer have shown up, as well as collages and painted seashells.
“On a sunny day, when more people are out, the artwork might change six or eight times,” says Milrany. “Just the surprise of seeing what people put in there has made this super fun for me.”
Many of the people who add artwork to the mini gallery are artists themselves. They’re happy to have a new venue for their work and hope to make a name for themselves by sharing their talents. All small works, Milrany says, are welcome.
Milrany is happy to make exceptions for people who want a piece of art but don’t have one to add in its place. She has just been happy to see people using the little art gallery in their own unique ways.
“The talent and creativity that people have is incredible,” she says. “Yesterday, somebody left a leaf inside with beautiful embroidery sewn down the side of it.”
Milrany’s favorite part is watching people arrive and be surprised at what’s inside her little gallery. Delight is something none of us can ever quite have enough of. Check out the short video below to see a few of the works in Milrany’s gallery.