Artist Spreads Joy in Her Community With Outdoor Miniature Art Gallery

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(CNN) — An artist eager to help people connect during the coronavirus pandemic has created a miniature art gallery that invites visitors to curate art.

In December, Stacy Milrany set up a white wooden box that contained an unexpected treasure outside her home, tucked away in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood.

Inside the box was a mini art gallery, with small shelves and easels containing works of art. She called it the Little Free Art Gallery, inspired by the non-profit organization Little Free Library which makes book sharing boxes.

“During this pandemic, everyone has been trying to find ways to bring more light to each other, to bring some hope, to create more fun, especially through creative ways to connect to each other when we were physically cut off,” Milrany told CNN.

“It’s a nice little surprise for people, but it’s also a joy for me to see creativity in my house.”

Stacy Milrany adds art to her little free art gallery.

Courtesy of Winnie Westergard

Unlike traditional museums, Milrany’s gallery encourages viewers to keep their favorite works. The only items they cannot remove are the miniature plastic figures placed in front of the artwork.

And she loves it when people leave behind their own art to replace pieces they’ve taken. It is not a requirement.

On the first day of its opening — which featured his painting titled “Cat Hair” — Milrany shared the project on Instagram and neighborhood app Nextdoor. Within days, 10 pieces had already come and gone, she said.

When she has time, Milrany meets the people who share their art while other days she just watches the gallery change, usually about five times a day.

Some of the gallery visitors, she says, are so invested that they come several times a day.

Due to the pandemic, many museums and art galleries are closed. In the states where they are open, not everyone feels comfortable visiting.

Despite the distance people experience from public spaces and from each other, Milrany says her project has helped people connect.

“It makes me feel like it helps in some way, especially at a time when loneliness has increased over the past year due to the pandemic,” Milrany said. “It encourages people to come out to see what their neighbors are contributing, and people who put up their own claimed artwork know someone enjoyed their little masterpiece.”

Since the opening of its small gallery more than a month ago, more than 100 works of art have been exhibited and brought back by visitors.

One of Milrany's own pieces, titled

One of Milrany’s own pieces, titled “MLK”, was featured in his mini art gallery on MLK Day.

Courtesy of Stacy Milrany

“I’m thrilled that people are finding fun and hope,” Milrany said. “It gives me hope in people, in the United States, in humanity to appreciate those little feelings of human expression, authenticity, real things.”

People who share their own work showcase a variety of artistic genres, ranging from traditional oil paintings and conceptual art to sculptures and collages.

In addition to spreading joy, Milrany uses her small art gallery — which she plans to rename Free Little Art Gallery to avoid confusion with mini-libraries — to give local artists a chance to get noticed. When artists sign their work, Milrany posts it on Instagram and tags the creator.

The gallery owner says she hopes her project will inspire others across the country to borrow the idea and set up their own small art galleries.

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