When Brier resident Gavin Doyle built a “Little Art Gallery” in his neighborhood, his goal was to add some color for people to enjoy and to share their own creations.
Similar to the little lending libraries or food pantries that dot many neighborhoods, Doyle’s structure, which is located on 27th Place West near the intersection of 236th Street Southwest, features free small works of art. People are invited to leave creative offerings in the gallery and also take items from it for their own use.
“I hope this little gallery brings you all joy, creative outlet and new connections with your neighbors,” Doyle explained on the Facebook page he created for it. “The rules of the art gallery are simple: leave a (little) piece of art and/or take a little piece of art, leave a painted rock and/or take a painted rock.”
Doyle, who teaches acting and creativity classes at University of Washington Bothell, said he first decided to build the community gallery after reading an article about a woman who started one in her Seattle neighborhood. While working from home the during the pandemic, Doyle had been trying to think of ways to still have meaningful interactions with others, so he latched onto the idea. “I see it as a way to connect with people and families and neighbors, but also a place to be creative,” he said.
He made the gallery’s pole-mounted container box out of wood scraps left over from a recent deck project and a glass door that was repurposed from a bathroom cabinet. Doyle stocked it with miniature easels that can hold 3- to 5-inch canvases and added hooks on the walls for slightly larger pieces, but he reminds people to still “think ‘little.’” There is a small basket mounted to the pole that contains some basic art materials such as brushes, paints and blank 3-inch-by-3-inch canvases purchased at a craft store to help get people started with their own creations. He encourages anyone to take what they need and to “feel free to restock supplies.”
“I think a lot of people want to let out a little bit of creativity, but it can be scary to feel judged and I think this is a super kind of low stakes, nice way to do it,” Doyle said. “It can be completely anonymous if you want to.”
He created four miniature paintings with paint pens and brushes for the gallery’s grand opening as a way “to get the ball rolling,” and said each of his two children “are super thrilled” to have also contributed artwork since then. Doyle added that he sees the gallery as a way to help instill in his kids “the idea that whatever you make in this life, whether it’s artistic or not, is valuable – worthy of appreciation, so I see it as a cool message for them that what they create can be put out there for view.” He also believes it helps with fostering empathy by seeing the passions and perspectives that other people express in sharing their own art.
Doyle also asks that when people add pieces of art, they consider taking a picture and uploading it along with any relevant information, such as the title or creative process, to the gallery’s public page on Facebook, which can be viewed here, as a way to further its sense of community. “This will help us record the awesomeness and make connections with each other when your little art ends up in a neighbor’s home,” he noted. “The proud new owner may even be able to connect with you here to let you know about where your work ended up.”
After Doyle first posted to the private Brier Community Group on Facebook about his plan to build the little art gallery, several people voiced their support for the idea. Some have even contributed art supplies or offered other resources to aid the effort. While the art pieces are meant to be small, they aren’t limited to canvas-bound mediums and could be sculptures or other types of original creative expression. There’s even an area at the base of the gallery’s pole for painted rocks, which Doyle incorporated following a suggestion on social media.
“That kind of synergy, collaboration, I’m really kind of letting it become something that’s important to the neighborhood,” he said. Doyle noted that allowing the contents displayed to change organically as people contribute and take art also will provide him with an interesting learning experience. “I’m not a professional artist,” he said. “I don’t know how to make art, but I think that’s kind of the fun of it, that I get to experiment and everyone else does too.”
In the event people leave more pieces of art or supplies than those containers can fit, Doyle will then store the items inside until there is room to rotate them into the gallery or materials’ basket.
Doyle said in the few days since he established the gallery, a neighbor had reached out thanking him for the rock garden section, which their daughter had been happy to visit and contribute to. Someone also had recently added a new piece to the gallery, and others also took three to four blank canvases from the basket, which suggested to him that more new art will be coming soon. “This is going to be a continual joy for me,” he added. “I have high hopes for this that it will be here years as kind of a place of joy, community and creativity for the neighborhood.”
— By Nathan Blackwell