With the successive imposition of lockdowns and access restrictions during the pandemic, artists and other creative people are rediscovering the charms of tiny art. Reports about free little galleries or FLAG, have proliferated in the past year. The Seattle Met, the Washington Post (twice), TimeOut, Urbanicity, the CBC, the Toronto Star, even the Smithsonian Magazine have all showed interest in little galleries.
According to these reports, FLAGs are already thriving across the United States in Seattle, Portland, Austin, Oakland, Phoenix Atlanta, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, Hyattsville, as well as in Edmonton and more recently Hamilton, Canada. Artist and self-proclaimed FLAG tracker Elaine Luther has spotted some in Sweden, Polan and Mexico. She created a website to help us follow the expansion of the empire.
This growing phenomenon is good news for artists. It provides a much needed outlet for their works and also a way to reach out to a diverse audience, both locally and online. It is also good news for kids and for community spirit, because it is inclusive of all sorts of works, as long as it fits the space, and everyone can leave or take a piece of their art. It is the same exchange system as the well-known free little library network.
Washington State artists are definitely leading the trend. Stacy Milrani was one of the first to launch and now seemingly has one of the busiest FLAG. Sculptor Jennyfer McNeely took the adventure to new dimensions with the creation of fictional curator Margaret Supperfield, a doll with her own Instagram account. As for long time professional doll maker, Katy Strutz, the appeal of free little galleries was irresistible.
Interestingly, this newly found passion in miniature art comes at a time when, at the supersize end of the spectrum, so called immersive art is also taking off. Now attracting renowned large museum institutions, immersive shows of images by Van Gogh, Klimt, Schiele, Klee and also contemporary artists are scheduled in places likes Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Bordeau, Dubai, Shangai, Macao and Tokyo. These events use new technologies to attract new audiences to visual arts and boost tourism. Bea Mitchell’s top 11 list in her Blooloop article is enough to appreciate the contrast this is compared to miniature art.
Miniature art has long been part of major historical collections. It also never left the contemporary art scene, even if it had not been considered blockbuster by large institutions, with big buildings. The Biennale Internationale d’Art Miniature (BIAM) has presented miniature works in the small northern town of Ville-Marie, Quebec for 30 years. More than 10 countries were represented last summer. Across the pond, in Paris, visitors have a few more days to visit the Small is Beautiful exhibition. At this event by Encore Productions and Fever, 20 artists present their miniature works, and children can take part in miniature art workshops.
Pictured below is the latest free little gallery that just opened its tiny door in Hamilton, Canada. As I visited it with a limited edition contribution of my own, a local artist was already there with her own contribution. An initiative by art teacher Matt Coleman, the Mappleside Museum of Miniature Art (MMoMA) is however a bit of a misnomer. We get the pun of the acronym, but a museum usually has a collection conservation mandate, as well as educational programs, while a gallery shows art for trading purpose. The MMoMA is actually a free little gallery.