Create a Free Little Art Gallery to Cultivate Attitude of Gratitude With Kids

October 28, 2022
By Beth Herrild

You may have noticed Little Free Libraries popping up in neighborhoods. Little Free Libraries are free public book exchanges, often in cute little wood cabinets in someone’s front yard. The idea is that anyone can take a book or leave books for others. The idea for these miniature libraries is said to have begun in 1996 in Wisconsin, by the late Todd Bol. He created one in honor of his mother, to spread the love of reading. His non-profit organization “Little Free Library”, offers a world map of chartered libraries for readers to find. Now there are Little Free Libraries in all 50 states, in 91 countries, and on every continent except Antarctica. In fact, Little Free Libraries now outnumber public libraries in the United State by 3 to 1.

The same can be done with art


Stacy Milrany’s FLAG. This piece is Internal Sunshine, by Collins Johnson, photo credit Stacy Milrany

Free Little Art Galleries are modeled after the Little Free Library concept, only with art. Free Little Art Galleries began popping up all over the country during 2020 when people were locked down during the early days of the pandemic! Stacy Milran started one in Seattle in December of 2020. She says, “The idea is pretty simple — anyone is welcome to leave a piece, take a piece or just have a look around and enjoy what’s inside.”

She told the Washington Post, “I suppose my larger intention was to add some light, levity and beauty to an otherwise dismal year.I believe that art should be more accessible to more people—paintings, poems, song, and dance—these [are] personal expressions of our ‘human-ness’ and I hope this little gallery might contribute to that little dream.” You can find out more about Stacy Milrany’s Free Little Art Gallery and her art here.

The number of Free Little Art Galleries (FLAG) has only continued to grow since then. Milran said that 90 pieces flowed in and out of her 16- by 18-inch FLAG within 30 days of its opening. Six months later, she estimated that 600 artworks have come and gone.

The Perfect Way to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude With Kids

November is the month that many of us pause and express our gratitude for everything good in our lives. From taking turns saying out loud what we’re grateful for at the dinner table to writing heartfelt letters, there are many ways to express gratitude. When my kids were little we always wrote our gratitude on leaves and hung them on a thankfulness tree. I also challenged each child to write a thank-you note each year to one person in the community for whom they were grateful. Modeling gratitude practices with kids is one way to help your kids become happier, healthier, adults. The research clearly shows that appreciating what we have makes us more optimistic, happier, and kinder people. If you want a new way to cultivate an attitude of gratitude with your kids, why not create your own Free Little Art Gallery?

How to Do It

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photo credit, Coupeville, WA

Start with a cabinet of some sort, preferably with a glass door. Most are made from wood. If you or a loved one or friend is handy, you can probably easily construct the cabinet with recycled wood or inexpensive wood purchased at a home improvement store. You could also repurpose an old kitchen cabinet, medicine cabinet, mini refrigerator, breadbox, or safe. If you don’t have any of these items lying around your own home, you can often find them at thrift stores or salvage stores. Free Little Art Galleries can be constructed the exact same way as Free Little Libraries, only you may not want a shelf inside. Here’s a video from HG TV that shows how to build one with plywood, wood glue, and plexiglass. This page also has a bunch of resources including free plans. Here’s a ready-made one you can purchase on Amazon. Then, you can mount your cabinet on a post set in concrete, on a fence, or even on a tree.

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If you are an Outside the Box Creation customer, I bet you already have some pieces of art that you could put in your Free Little Art Gallery! In fact, our August 2022 project was mini impasto paint masterpieces. I’m going to bring the mini masterpieces that we did for the August project to a Little Free Art Gallery nearby and start working on creating a Little Free Art Gallery of my own! I’d love you to share your comments and photos of your Free Little Art Gallery; and other ways that you cultivate an attitude of gratitude with your kids!

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