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Free Little Art Gallery shares local artwork with community

The tiny gallery at St. Stephen's Plaza aims to make art accessible to all

A repurposed foot locker redecorated with glass panels, solar lights and shelves has become a tiny art gallery. A Free Little Art Gallery, inspired by similar installations in Canada and Texas and the Little Free Libraries that dot most municipalities, has taken up residence in St. Stephen’s Plaza at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street.

The Free Little Art Gallery is a place not just to view art, but for artists to share their work and for locals to find small pieces that resonate with them and take those pieces with them. Artists who add their work are encouraged to use the hashtag #locofreegallery on social media when new work is added.

A sign on the tiny gallery explains that the art world feels elitist, alienating and inaccessible. The Free Little Art Gallery hopes to promote just the opposite, encouraging locals to share in art and creativity in even the smallest of ways.

Salowa Salzer, a local mural artist and board member of Left Hand Artist Group, shared some of the other tiny galleries on social media. The social media posts came to the attention of Amanda Maldonado, Creative District liaison with the Longmont Downtown Development Association, or LDDA, and Maldonado brought it up to other LDDA staff. 

According to Maldonado, the LDDA had been looking at removing or replacing the Little Free Library that already existed in that space and the art gallery was the perfect idea to take its place. Joyanna Gittings, owner of Obra Arts in Old Towne Marketplace, jumped into the mix and the gallery was underway. Maldonado sees herself more as a facilitator than collaborator in the project, helping build the connections and encouraging the project from the sidelines.

Gittings started redecorating an old wooden locker that Salzer found, making the piece more reminiscent of an actual gallery with natural light coming in from above as well as weather-sealing to protect the art within. 

Gittings has more ideas for the exterior of the little gallery, with plans to sit and work on it in the public eye and engage more with passersby, she said. The pinstriping, scrolling and spun leaf designs on the gallery box were inspired by Longmont’s car culture and cruise nights.

Gittings encourages artists, aspiring or professional, to leave ways for patrons of the tiny gallery to see more of their work. The emphasis is on discovery and accessibility.

“We want it to be open to anybody,” Gittings said. “A three-year-old’s crayon drawing would be perfect. Anyone can take or leave art.”

The Free Little Art Gallery has already seen art come and go in the two weeks since it was installed. Gittings said people are still putting books in there, which she moves to other Little Free Libraries in the area to make space for more art.

“There has been a lot of art in the gallery and it goes really quickly,” Maldonado said. “I’m excited to see it grow and hope more people put their work inside. I’m eager to put my own work in there regularly.”