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Cool Person Doing Cool Thing Alert

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

I have a couple of regular loops through my neighborhood. Sometimes I wish that weren’t true, I wish I were the person who mixed it up, took a new route every day. My knee jerk reason is that I save mental energy by making fewer choices so my mind gets to work on whatever I’m writing at the time, kind of the Steve-Jobs-turtleneck of daily walks, without the billions of dollars and child labor. Thankfully there are other people in the world, and when they mix it up, I reap the benefits. This is true of Winchell Tiny Art Gallery, a project that popped up on my walk last year. They took the little free library idea and applied it to showing art — little art, big inspiration.

The small format gave us an opportunity to think inside the box (har har), a scale less intimidating than a traditional gallery setting. “Big inspiration” plus “less intimidating” equals freedom, as far as we’re concerned, so we tried something new. TAG’s mixing it up was contagious, and we broke out in weird wool felted creatures.

Katie Boertman of TAG was generous enough to share her experience of this project, and it rings true to our own experience of collaborating on creative projects. When we are lonely, struggling, or carrying more than we feel we can, art connects us to others in unexpected ways, expands our minds and hearts and communities. We’re grateful Katie’s in our community.

WW: Why a tiny art gallery?

Boertman: The disconnection I felt from my community during the pandemic became detrimental to my mental health during summer 2021. In a desperate attempt to find ideas to lessen the emotional toll of this new reality of long distance everything, I stumbled upon an article in the Smithsonian magazine about free, miniature art galleries popping up across the country. The article sparked something inside of me I hadn't felt in a very long time. After that, it was another year of figuring out how best to bring this idea to life coupled with serious bouts of self doubt. It was my husband who encouraged me to continue figuring it out. He also kept reminding me to focus on the enjoyment of the process, not on worrying about an unknown outcome. Without him there would be no gallery.

WW: Have you encountered any surprises?

Boertman: The entire journey has been one surprise after another — in the best way. First, the response from the community has been amazing. When you live with an idea for a while and don't share it with others, that initial enthusiasm for the project can diminish significantly. The immediate response from the community was the encouragement I needed to continue the work and start reaching out to artists. Second, the artists' generosity in entrusting me with their work has been humbling. The gallery has exhibited work from watercolorists, fiber artists, painters, jewelry makers, and cartoonists. Everytime a new exhibit is planned, created and installed, I am astounded by the care and creativity invested in the tiny works of art. Our whole family feels a great responsibility in taking care of the art while it's on exhibit.

WW: Can you share any favorite moments from watching folks take in or interact with the work?

Boertman: Watching the community's reaction to the gallery is the absolute best part of this whole project. The joy and conversations and laughter and stories we've witnessed has been incredibly restorative for me personally. I am very grateful for the support the gallery has received since its opening and am very excited to see where this project evolves.

For more info on Winchell Tiny Art Gallery you can follow them on Instagram @winchell_tiny_art_gallery. They’re looking for artists, so maybe you’ll think about mixing it up? My walks could use the boost.

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