Willmar’s small art galleries set to make a big impact – West Central Tribune
WILLMAR – There’s an ancient proverb that good things can come in small packages, and the Willmar Community Center will illustrate just how true that can be with its latest community project – Little Art Gallery Willmar. From May, wooden display cases will be installed at five locations across the city to showcase the vast artistry found in and around Willmar, just in miniature.
“I first saw the idea on (social media site) TikTok,” said Riley Kennedy, program manager for the community center. “I was like, ‘oh, I love art. Oh, we can do this.'”
Britta Diem, director of the Willmar Community Center, was quick to approve the new project and get on board.
“It’s sort of a spin-off from the little libraries around town,” which have become very popular, Diem said. “So why wouldn’t it take off and be good for the community too?”
Instead of books to share, the boxes will feature a diverse collection of small works of art, created by local people. There may be paintings, wire works or sculptures. The only requirement is that the room be no larger than 6 inches by 6 inches and be family friendly.
Anyone is welcome to create a piece to display in a box, regardless of age or artistic ability.
“Do what you want, there are no expectations,” Kennedy said. “You can experiment and see what happens.”
Seven wooden display cases were built by volunteers at the community center workshop, using materials donated by volunteers and Perkins Lumber. PrintMasters also helps by providing information cards and stickers to stick on the boxes, to explain the galleries to passers-by.
“We can’t thank them enough,” Kennedy said.
The first five gallery boxes will be installed at Robbins Island, Swansson Field Complex, Ridgewater College, Willmar Public Library and Bethesda.
Each box has been painted with a pattern to reflect its location.
For example, the Robbins Island box has a fish on it, while the Swansson Field gallery is painted to look like a beehive with honeycombs and bees in a nod to the Willmar Stingers baseball team.
The galleries will also have small flower boxes on top, to add even more visual appeal.
“It’s going really well,” Diem said, adding that the ultimate goal is to create and exhibit 10 small galleries in town.
To get the project off to a successful start, the community center held a series of free art workshops in April, open to everyone. The last two are scheduled for April 19 from 3 to 5 p.m. and April 22 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the center.
Starting in May, there will be one workshop per month at the centre. There’s also an idea of having workshops in different places, maybe where the galleries are on display, “just to give him more visibility and a way for the groups who support him to create art for their boxes,” Diem said.
Each month, a theme will be proposed for the exhibitions in the galleries. The monthly workshops will contain instructions and materials for various art projects for people to try their hand at.
However, artists are more than welcome to create something entirely from their imagination. Box art also doesn’t have to be created at the community center. Artists can create their artwork at home and drop or post it in the center.
“If you have the creativity and you want to do something, do it,” Kennedy said. “We’ll put it in a box. You don’t have to follow the theme.”
Initially, galleries will be locked so that art cannot be deleted, edited or added by the public. Instead, Diem and Kennedy plan to rotate the various works every two weeks. At the end of each month, the art will be removed and a new exhibition will be organized.
Artists will be able to pick up their pieces or leave them for the use of the community center. If there’s a piece of art in a gallery that someone is interested in, Diem said she would work with them to connect with the artist.
The hope is that one day small galleries will really be like small free libraries, with the public picking up and leaving the art on their own.
“We want people to get used to the idea first,” Kennedy said.
Even before the galleries are open, community interest seems to be high. In addition to the volunteers who helped build the actual boxes, the art workshops also attracted enthusiastic attendees.
“I think it’s a great idea. I hope it catches on,” said Fran Syverson.
Syverson began painting in 2009, after retiring. It was something she had always wanted to do, but never had the time for. Now, she says, it takes all her time.
“I love it,” Syverson said.
For Marsha Milani, painting and other crafts provide her with opportunities to unwind and be creative.
“When I have time, it’s so relaxing,” Milani said. “You turn on your right side of the brain.”
She is also a big supporter of anything that inspires people to be creative, including the Little Galleries project, because as a retired teacher she feels the arts have been sorely neglected.
“It’s just fun,” Milani said. “It’s very important that people use these skills, you never know when you’ll need them.”
Diem and Kennedy hope Little Gallery Willmar will take off and become as open year-round as possible. They can’t wait for the galleries to be installed and to see what the community’s reaction will be.
“We’re really excited to see how it’s working out,” Kennedy said. “And the community that comes out and shows their skills, or no skills and just wants to create, try something new.”