The little free art gallery Katrina Lyon triggered a revival of miniature arts in the neighborhood of Columbia


Katrina Lyon has made a living as a freelance graphic designer for over 20 years, teaming up with Bellingham Departmental Tourism Whatcom, Ocean Kayak, City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation, and other area businesses. Recently, she also turned her gaze to the creation of Little Bham Free Art Galleryan unusual attraction in his neighborhood that captured the imagination and sparked creativity.

Outside of work, Lyon enjoys taking small human figures, about an inch tall, into natural settings. There, she arranges them into scenes, photographs them and shares them on her Instagram page. She made some stickers and produced a 2020 calendar, which she sent to her clients and friends. “It’s just a fun side project,” she says. “An inspiration to get out and play, and to see things from a different perspective – a ‘mic’.”

This sideline quickly led to bigger things, but still quite small. “Because of my ‘mic’ hobby, friends often send me ‘small world’ type links,” Lyon says. She also shared with friends that she would like to open her own gallery one day. “My friend Patti Rowlson from Bellingham PR & Communications saw the Small free art gallery started by Stacy Milrany in Seattle in the news. She passed it on to me and said, “You should do that in Bellingham. She is always an advocate for making your dreams come true.

Housed in what was intended to be a small free library, the gallery offers free artistic entertainment to passers-by. Photo courtesy Katrina Lyon

Lyon was already familiar with the small, freestanding curbside “libraries” that have long sprung up around the city, where residents drop their own books and pick up those left behind by others. “I’m not a builder, but I’ve done a bunch of research, and downloaded plans for small free bookcases,” Lyons says. “And then I found a site where I could order a pre-made, unpainted little bookcase free online, and this was it. »

After his arrival, Lyon transformed the library into an art gallery. “I painted it inside and out, installed the gallery ‘railings’ and the rechargeable light, and my husband Sean dug the post hole and installed it on the side of the house”, explains Lyon. And there, at the intersection of West Street and Eldridge Avenue, Bellingham’s first small art space was born. “We opened on May 2, 2021.”

Lyon describes the response and support for the gallery as “really amazing”, although it hasn’t done much publicity. “It’s just word of mouth, people passing by and my little following on the Instagram account. A few neighbors shared it on Facebook,” she says. people just go out to visit the gallery, and people have told me that they have adjusted their route so they can walk on it on their way home from work or with their dogs. , friends or children.

Visitors are welcome to take the art home, as well as bring their own creation to share with all who pass by. Photo courtesy Katrina Lyon

The same magic that attracts young people also seems to speak to the adults who visit. “There have been some very happy little children who have collected and contributed to the collection. A woman recently told me that her daughter has wanted to visit space every day since she discovered it, and that inspired, the mother, to do things again,” Lyon explains. “I feel the same: having the gallery inspires me and motivates me to take time to make art more regularly.”

More inspiration also comes from following other small galleries. “I follow FLAG – the Free Little Art Gallery – in Seattle, and I found a bunch of others: Portland, Oakland, San Diego, Fort Collins, Houston, Phoenix, Albuquerque, DC, Rhode Island and what could to be the original in Edmonton, BC, which has been operating since 2018,” Lyon says. “There’s even another one that just opened in Bellingham in the Broadway Park area. Maybe one day we can do a walk through the gallery.

Inspired by other galleries, Lyon includes miniature patrons who inhabit the gallery. “I have six-inch figures that I swap almost daily, so there are new people looking at the art all the time. I like to organize the gallery and exchange visitors, but when people bring or take art, they often rearrange things too,” she says. “Once or twice someone has put some sort of bed or couch, and I’ll find one of the ‘people’ lying inside the gallery. I recently put a little cat figurine in the gallery, and the next day someone added a table and put the cat on it, and I saw someone on social media say, “Of course the cat is on the table !”

Bellingham has joined a list of towns across North America that are home to similar delightful attractions. Photo courtesy Katrina Lyon

One day the cat disappeared. “I put up a missing poster and then someone made this creative and hilarious ransom note on Instagram. We paid the ransom – candy – and the cat was handed over,” Lyon explains. has a general sense of space play. It’s anonymous and often silly, and it’s really fun. As adults, with bills and jobs, we can forget how much fun it is to play But being playful is one way to boost your creativity, and with the gallery, there’s an outlet for all of that.

Other than its size, there aren’t many rules about gallery exposure, and all sorts of media have already passed. “Embroidery, crochet, stickers, canvas paintings, paper prints, watercolors, photos, woven baskets, miniature driftwood landscapes, painted rocks, dollhouse furniture, resin and more,” Lyon says. “Professional and amateur artists, of all ages, everyone can share their art with the community and everyone can be a collector. If you see a work of art you like, it’s yours. And the art keeps coming because creatives keep creating, sharing and inspiring others.

A few “customers” appreciate the offerings of the Little Free Art Gallery in the District of Columbia. Photo courtesy Katrina Lyon

Photo courtesy of Steven Arbuckle

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