Free Little Art Gallery Launches Give Art, Take Art Movement in Sharpsburg | Visual arts | Pittsburgh

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Photo: Courtesy of Free Little Art Gallery Sharpsburg

Small free art gallery in Sharpsburg

Art can pop up in the most unlikely places. In Sharpsburg, aside from a pizzeria, there’s not just art, but a whole art gallery, which isn’t saying much since it’s about the size of mailbox.

Since the end of May, a small free art gallery has set up shop in the side parking 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 patrons of the gallery.

The box, which sits atop a pole like a birdhouse, is part of a growing community of small free art galleries popping up across the country. The Sharpsburg addition, like those before it, is intended to foster creativity and connection in the community, and to encourage donations, as every piece is free to take.

“Some people shouldn’t feel like they have 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’s 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 his best to keep track of what comes in and goes out, even if sometimes a piece is gone before it can even be documented.

“Originally we just said, ‘Please, when you drop something off, tag us so we know you put it there’ because we’re not going to go there every day. to check it out,” says Susan. “And it was kind of our way of saying, ‘Oh, if they’re doing this, then we don’t have to go there every day to take a picture. “”

Over time, however, even if the artists weren’t watching, some takers were happy to contribute.

“We had a wife, she actually took a few things and she put together a little wall,” says Susan. “And she marked us and it was good to see where things landed and how she puts them in her home.”

The sense of community and creativity also extended to the construction of the gallery.

“So it was all built by this handyman who likes to be called Scrappy,” says Susan, adding that he made the gallery with recycled materials from his house. “And he put this really weird feature in there. He put this mirror in the back. And I think it’s kind of funny because people, when they go to take a picture, they realize they’re there in the picture because it’s their reflection.

So far, the donated works have ranged from painting and drawing, collages and photography to small quilted pieces, stickers and even a painted shell. In terms of size, Susan says she has seen works measuring up to 8 by 10 inches.

Susan and Caleb, who live in Fox Chapel, launched the Free Little Art Gallery during the Sharpsburg Art Adventure crawl. From there, it slowly gained popularity on social media and by 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 the school, but Goldberg talked her out of it. Instead, they decided Sharpsburg’s location would make it more accessible to the public, benefit from foot traffic, and be more conspicuous in general.

Susan emailed Ferdi Baylassin, owner of Gino Brothers, who agreed to host the gallery in the store. Even better, the location is right in front of Creative Ketchup Citya full-size art gallery and studio run by Goldberg.

Click to enlarge Small Free Art Gallery Launches Give Art, Take Art Movement in Sharpsburg

Photo: Courtesy of Free Little Art Gallery Sharpsburg

Nanci Goldberg, Susan Adams and Caleb Adams at the Free Little Art Gallery in Sharpsburg

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 proposed the creation of the gallery after having read a Washington Post story about a small free art gallery in Seattle. Susan says that in addition to Pittsburgh, many other cities have started to join the movement and have even formed a support network.

“I would say what surprised me about this process is how many other smaller galleries are following ours, and vice versa,” says Susan. “All of a sudden there’s this weird meta-community of other galleries.”

She adds that they receive messages from other small gallery operators who have even mailed in art donations. Susan also expressed 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, Sharpsburg’s Free Little Art Gallery is the only locale of its kind. However, Susan says someone approached her to open her own small free art gallery in Oakland, so others could spring up in other parts of town.

While concerns about the gallery being destroyed or otherwise violated are justifiable, Susan says that so far people have been respectful. She says that even when the little easels or doll-like patrons, which are meant to stay in the gallery, disappear, it usually ends up working.

“We’ve actually had people donate patrons, like they put little figurines inside for us,” says Susan. “So as many people who left probably came back.” This is backed up by Instagram posts from the gallery, 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 such a way that they could move it if necessary. For now, they hope it can serve as a kind of marketing tool for artists, many of whom have been hit hard by the consequences of COVID-19, and as a fun, unorthodox and totally free way to people to discover art.

“I think, in a way, it almost feels like our job is almost done,” Susan says. “As we put it there. And now it’s up to people to use it.


Free Little Art Gallery Sharpsburg. 713 Main St., Sharpsburg. Instagram @flagsharpsburg Where flagsharpsburg.wixsite.com/website

Norma D. Ross