Take a piece, leave a piece at Seattle’s first Little Free Art Gallery

Dec 30, 2020, 4:21 PM | Updated: Dec 31, 2020, 7:19 am

While the state’s art museums have been shutdown because of the pandemic, there is a new art gallery that’s open 24/7.

“This is a Little Free Art Gallery! Same principle as The Little Free Library but there’s art inside,” said Seattle artist Stacy Milrany, who set up the Little Free Art Gallery outside her Queen Anne home on Dec. 13.

“Anyone is welcome to make a piece, take a piece, or just stop to look around,” she said.

The gallery, a small wooden structure with a glass door set atop a post, is designed to look like a modern museum.

“It’s about 16 inches across, simple clean lines, it’s all white,” Milrany said. “It’s more shallow than a Little Free Library because I wanted the art to be close up so that people can see it easily. There’s a simple little wooden bench that you find at museums and art galleries. When I first started, I thought just one little ledge against the back wall was going to be enough [to display the art] but sometimes there are up to five or six pieces in there at a time, so I’ve add some little railings against the side walls.”

None of the art is bigger than 8 by 10 inches, and most of it is smaller.

“I started it with one of my own pieces of art and didn’t know if anybody else would contribute. I put a little sign on it telling people what it’s about and very quickly, within the first day, there were three pieces that appeared,” she said. “Somebody took the first piece that I had started with. I think we started just over two weeks ago and about 35 pieces have come and gone.”

Being a sidewalk gallery, I expected to see quick sketches, maybe drawn on an envelope from someone’s purse, but most are beautiful pieces you might see in a full-sized gallery.

“One of the things that I’m so impressed by is the diversity in the artwork and the quality,” Milrany said. “These very professional looking 4×6 oil paintings on canvas. There was a beautiful piece that went very quickly, by Scott Gibson, who is a well-known Seattle artist, that was 5×7 and called ‘Sardine.’ It sat there for about three hours and I wanted it so badly, but I have to let some of these pieces go to other people.”

Everyone is encouraged to contribute, be it visual art of all mediums, or poetry, not just professional artists.

“One of the coolest things has been people just being surprised by it,” Milrany said. “The Little Free Art Gallery is one block off Queen Anne’s main [avenue], so this street gets a lot of foot traffic. People come and go, they walk their dogs by here all the time, but it’s so cool to see people who are marching down the street so fast, they’re looking at their phones, and they do a double take and come back. Sometimes they’ll spend a few minutes looking at it, taking pictures, and that’s the coolest thing. Like when people stop and slow down and appreciate art in a time when they weren’t expecting to at all.”

A few years ago, Milrany left a full-time job for freelance, so she could have more time to make art.

“I have committed to doing something creative every single day,” she said. “Sometimes I get the luxury of painting for eight hours, and sometimes I get the luxury of painting for eight minutes. This to me is, while I’m not painting, even curating other people’s art and studying these little pieces, that’s a creative endeavor in itself.”

While Milrany would love to create more Little Free Art Galleries around the city, the country, and even the world, she mostly just hopes that this one will bring people a little bit of light and joy during a difficult time.

“As far as being the smallest art gallery in the world, I don’t know if that’s fair. But I do know that it’s the smallest art gallery on my street!,” she laughed.

You can find The Little Free Art Gallery at 1st Avenue North and Garfield Street in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. See the little painting I added to the gallery on my Instagram or Facebook pages. And check out Milrany’s larger 300-foot art gallery of her own work here.

Milrany adds little human figurines to make the gallery come alive with art appreciators, and while the art is free for the taking, she asks that people don’t take the figurines.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

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Take a piece, leave a piece at Seattle’s first Little Free Art Gallery