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Art gallery borrows from Little Free Libraries

Art gallery borrows from Little Free Libraries


From June 8

From major collections at the Chazen to local pottery at Fine Earth Studio, Madison’s art scene is an undeniable draw for young professionals.

But to local artists Rachel Bruya and Jeremy Wineberg, much of that work isn’t accessible to those people who can’t (or won’t) make time to get into a gallery.

Little Galleries, Bruya’s new project, brings art to the sidewalks. Both a public art piece and a permanent, changing installation, the Little Mifflin Gallery is a structure about 6 feet tall, with an 18-inch-high glass box on the top that’s big enough to display four of John Hitchcock’s owl prints. (Hitchcock, a printmaker and installation artist, lives on the same block as the gallery.)

The first of three planned galleries, Little Mifflin opened recently next to the sidewalk in front of Bruya’s home, 1921 E. Mifflin St. Other artists planned for Little Mifflin in coming months include Chris Walla, Trent Miller, Jason Ruhl, Wineberg (a sculptor) and Jessica O’Hearn.

“People don’t have to go into a gallery,” said Wineberg, who will also manage the Little Monroe Gallery near his workplace, Monroe Street Framing. “We’re bringing art back into this lively social scene.”

Bruya, a 2007 graduate of the UW’s master of fine arts program, wanted to do some kind of art exhibition in her home, but thought people were less likely to come into her living room or backyard than to hover on the sidewalk outside.

Late last fall, Bruya mentioned the idea of small, permanent galleries to a colleague at the UW, where she sometimes teaches. Supportive faculty connected her with graduate students in woodworking (Dean Allen and Gabe Strader-Brown) who built the galleries.

A Madison Arts Commission BLINK! grant and Dane Arts provided additional funding.

“It’s a small space,” Wineberg said of the galleries, which can fit just a few pieces of art on paper or miniature sculpture.

Bruya and Wineberg have some security concerns. They’ve cautioned artists not to use precious materials like gold, which might encourage theft. The pair are not expecting vandalism, but even with local caretakers keeping an eye on the galleries, they know it’s possible.

“You’re taking a chance to put stuff out there,” Wineberg said.

“One of the cool things about this is it catches a lot of people by surprise. We’re trying to encourage a serendipitous kind of experience,” he said.

The Little Monroe Gallery is set to be installed sometime this week, with the first show featuring drawings by Scott Espeseth. Another, the Little Forward Gallery, is in the works for a campus location.

With additional funding, Bruya would love to provide a stipend for the artists and start more galleries in a slow and sustainable way. She likes the idea of starting a movement, similar to the Little Free Libraries, which recently received $70,000 to expand.

She’s encouraged by how well the Little Mifflin Gallery has been received.

“One of the first people that stopped by after the show went in was a mom with her two kids,” said Bruya. “She kind of pulled them over and said, ‘Hey, look, you guys. Instead of us going to the museum, the art has come out to the sidewalk to us.’

“That encompassed every intention we’ve had with the project. It was amazing to have someone walking by get that right away.” 

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