Photo Credit: Sophia Garcia/Achona Online
High school Art 1 teachers Paige Rodriguez and Jessica Ens have both started a project that gives back to those less fortunate. The concept is a tweaked version of Little Free Library, a 501 nonprofit organization that promotes book exchange/reading in neighborhoods nationwide. The art department kept the idea of a box exchange but replaced books with art pieces, so art galleries are shared within communities.
Rodriguez and Ens were originally inspired by a Seattle article about Stacy Milrany ‘out of the box’ art gallery. Milrany created the gallery during Seattle’s COVID-19 lockdown to pass the time and give back to her neighborhood. Instead of books or even, Milrany created dollhouse art galleries that mimic a theatre but within the dimensions of a Little Free Library box. These 18-by-16-by-9 inch boxes contain a clever story through artwork of a miniature scene in each one. The gallery rotates every so often, so it will go from a miniature art studio to a miniature classroom, each weaving a story in a bizarre format.
A Seattle twist on the Little Free Library. It’s a “Little Free Art Gallery” with mini art works by local artists (by artist Stacy Milrany) pic.twitter.com/gNSLm8QpdT
— Jason Thorne (@JasonThorne_RPP) January 6, 2021
By mid-semester, the art department formulated the idea and put it into practice by the end of the year. AHN’s Little Free Gallery will permanently become a key project of the Art 1 curriculum. Because there are four Art 1 classes, two taught by Rodriguez and the other two are taught by Ens, four boxes were created for each class. Every Art 1 student must submit two pieces to the gallery as well. The head of maintenance built the physical structure of the box for this year’s project, but engineering students are expected to create the galleries themselves going forward.
Kira Cardillo (‘22) says, “I’ve never seen an art box or idea like this before. I find it very creative and an innovative project for the Academy to pursue. I have taken Art 2D and ceramics and thoroughly enjoyed both courses, so I’m looking forward to the newer ideas that the department is creating.”
The boxes go to communities in need, and for this year, two of the galleries are going to elementary schools that are underserved in their arts program, and the other two are going to senior assisted living facilities. Each gallery not only has artwork in them, but recycled art supplies are donated and placed in a smaller box underneath to motivate creative works. The communities that these galleries are headed to are extremely ecstatic and really look forward to the installation. Each gallery costs around one hundred dollars each, but the price is worth it because it serves the Academy’s values.
Art 1 teacher Jessica Ens says, “Each student in Art 1 researched the location site and why they had challenges in their access to the arts. Then, they reflected on the challenges that the community members faced with the arts, and how a mini art gallery might serve them in some way. The students then came up with a theme for the gallery that best reflected the participants of the gallery at the installation site.”
Installations will be made by the first week of summer so when school is out, art is in. The Little Free Gallery is planned to start again by the fall of next year’s semester. Every student in Art 1 played an important role in creating this project, the tasks were divided evenly to produce an efficient project that serves others. The students showed integrity and challenge from painting the box to creating the artwork that is distributed.