FRANKFORT — Three new Little Free Art Galleries in downtown Frankfort build grassroot connections and inspire the community’s creative culture.
The Oliver Art Center initiative based on the Little Free Libraries concept fills mini street side galleries with original works by professional artists — and anyone moved to pick up a paint brush, make a small sculpture, weave a tiny textile or engage in any other visual art.
Artist works are freely given to the project and free to take.
“We’re trying to make art accessible to anyone at anytime and spread the word that art is for everyone,” said OAC Director Mercedes Michalowski.
The small-scale outdoor galleries slated for installation May 1 are hosted by Century 21 Northland at 408 Main Street, Benzie Shores District Library at 630 Main Street and Oliver Art Center at 132 Coast Guard Road.
Michalowski said the gallery trio adds an art walk experience through downtown Frankfort.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to see and feel art,” she said. “It’s tangible and a nice bond.”
Frankfort joins several progressive communities, including Seattle, Wash., Madison Wis. and Ann Arbor in establishing tiny street galleries.
Frankfort’s community galleries were constructed by volunteer carpenters Brad Sprouse, Bob Crissman and Lou Cenname.
Cenname’s gallery is the largest of the three measuring 1.5-feet-wide-by-3-feet tall.
“I hope it’s inspirational for someone who has a flair for art,” he said.
Michalowski anticipates 24 artists to contribute to the spring artwork planting.
Frankfort business owner and abstract painter Mark Bowyer donated three pieces. Bowyer exhibits at several traditional galleries. His work was selected for the fall exhibition of The International Society of Experimental Artists on Mackinac Island.
Bowyer said Little Galleries play a unique role in elevating art. They draw people downtown, raise awareness of local talent and encourage creativity.
All ages, skill levels and mediums are welcome for the inclusive project.
“Everybody’s capable of making art,” Bowyer said. “It’s a matter of taking time to do it.”
Traverse City’s Theresa Youngman’s family has long been associated with the area. Her great-grandfather was a fresco painter from Germany who was commissioned in 1907 to decorate the Traverse City Courthouse.
Her grandfather Karl Ufer won honors for his painting at a 1916 exhibit at Park Place Hotel. Youngman offers her talents to the Little Free Galleries with the contribution of three acrylic floral paintings.
“Art means a lot to people,” she said. “It triggers something emotional in them.”
Youngman added, “I hope they find something that points to the beauty of nature and it gives them pause to appreciate that.”
Benzie Shores District Library Director Stacy Pasche plans to add art books and supplies to their Little Free Art Gallery to further spark enthusiasm and participation.
OAC is currently accepting works less than 12 inches in size for the galleries. Supporter Bags offered to the public for $10 help get art contributors started. Each bag contains a 4 by 4 blank canvas, four sheets of artists paper and four pots of paint.
Anyone wishing to contribute a work or offer a monetary donation for the Little Free Art Galleries may contact the Oliver Art Center at 231-352-4151.
“Even if people just walk by and smile, we’ve done our job,” Michalowski said.
“We’re trying to make art accessible to anyone at anytime and spread the word that art is for everyone …. It’s an opportunity for everyone to see and feel art. It’s tangible and a nice bond.” OAC Director Mercedes Michalowski