Free Little Art Gallery launches art movement, art in Sharpsburg | Visual arts | Pittsburgh
Art can crop up in the most unlikely places. In Sharpsburg, apart from a pizzeria, it’s not just art, it’s an entire art gallery, which doesn’t mean much since it’s the size of a Letter box.
Since the end of May, a small free art gallery has been located on the side lot of the Gino Brothers pizzeria at 713 Main Street. The project invites people to donate and take small works of art displayed in a dollhouse-like setting, with a small easel and figurines acting as gallery patrons.
The box, which sits atop a post like a birdhouse, is part of a growing community of small, free art galleries popping up across the country. The addition of Sharpsburg, like those that came before it, is meant to foster creativity and connections within the community, and to encourage donations, as each piece is free to take.
“Some people shouldn’t feel pressured to give something back because sometimes we have an overflow,” says Caleb Adams, a teenage artist who designed the Sharpsburg Free Little Art Gallery with his mother, Susan. “And in that case, it’s perfectly fine to take something.” But the whole point is for someone to take something and then come back another time and give something. It is a cycle.
Susan and Caleb also saw the gallery as an opportunity to continue supporting artists and cultivating a sense of connection during the dregs of the pandemic, when museums and other art venues were closed.
The gallery has a Instagram account who does their best to keep track of what comes in and goes out, though sometimes a piece disappears before it can even be documented.
“Originally, we were just saying, ‘Please when you drop something, tag us so we know you put it there,’ because we’re not going to go and check it every time. days, ”says Susan. “And that was kind of our way of saying, ‘Oh, if they do that, then we don’t have to go every day to take a picture.'”
Over time, however, even though the artists weren’t keeping an eye out, some takers were happy to contribute.
“We had a wife, she actually took a few things and she organized a little wall,” says Susan. “And she tagged us and it was neat to see where the stuff landed and how she puts it in her house.”
The sense of community and creativity also extended to the construction of the gallery.
“The set was therefore built by this handyman who likes to call himself Scrappy,” explains Susan, adding that he made the gallery with recycled materials from his home. “And he put this really weird feature in there. He put that mirror in the back. And I think it’s pretty funny because people, when they go to take a photo, they realize that they’re there in the photo because it’s their reflection.
Until now, the works donated have ranged from painting and drawing, collage works and photography, to small quilted pieces, stickers and even a painted shell. In terms of size, Susan says they’ve seen artwork measuring up to 8 inches by 10 inches.
Susan and Caleb, who live in Fox Chapel, started the Free Little Art Gallery while exploring Sharpsburg Art Adventure. From there, it slowly gained popularity on social media and word of mouth, says Susan.
To make it happen, the mother-son duo teamed up with Caleb’s art teacher at Dorseyville Middle School, Nanci Goldberg. Originally, Susan thought the gallery should go up to school but was dissuaded by Goldberg. Instead, they decided the Sharpsburg location would make it more accessible to the public, benefit from foot traffic, and be more visible in general.
Susan sent an email to Ferdi Baylassin, owner of Gino Brothers, who agreed to host the gallery in the store. Better yet, the location is right across from Ketchup City Creative, a full-size art gallery and studio run by Goldberg.
While Caleb is an artist who says his “dream job” is to work in the animation industry, Susan admits to having no artistic ability. Yet it was she who first proposed to create the gallery after having read a Washington post story about a small free art gallery in Seattle. Susan says that besides Pittsburgh, many other cities have started to join the movement and have even formed a support network.
“I would say something that surprised me about this process is the number of other small galleries all over the world following ours, and vice versa,” says Susan. “All of a sudden there’s this weird meta-community of other galleries.
She adds that they are receiving messages from other small gallery operators who have even sent art donations in the mail. Susan also expressed her excitement about being followed on Instagram by the gallery that inspired the Sharpsburg project in the first place.
The concept is similar to the small free libraries or pantries, which have become commonplace throughout Pittsburgh. But for now, the Free Little Art Gallery in Sharpsburg is the only one of its kind. However, Susan says someone contacted her to open her own little free art gallery in Oakland, so more may be available in other areas of the city.
While concerns about destroying or otherwise violating the gallery are justifiable, Susan says people have so far been respectful. She says that even when the little easel or the doll-like clients, who are supposed to stay in the gallery, disappear, it usually ends up working out.
“We actually had people who donated to patrons like they put little numbers inside for us,” says Susan. “So just as many of those who left have probably returned. This is supported by posts on the gallery’s Instagram, including a June 29 update showing a new set of donated patrons, specifically a seven-member African-American doll family.
As for the future, Susan and Caleb say the gallery will remain in its current location for as long as it is welcome. They also installed it in a way that allows them to move it around if necessary. For now, they are hoping it can serve as a marketing tool for artists, many of whom have been hit hard by the aftermath of COVID-19, and a fun, unorthodox, and completely free way for people to experience it. ‘art.
“I think in some ways I almost feel like our job is mostly done,” says Susan. “As we put it there. And now it’s up to people to use.
Small, free Sharpsburg art gallery. 713 Main Street, Sharpsburg. Instagram @flagsharpsburg Where flagsharpsburg.wixsite.com/website