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(Image: Sunita Martini)

Free Little Art Gallery pops up in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood

At this art gallery in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood, the exhibit is always evolving.

You might see a work of impressionism, or modern art - a portrait or a photo - or something perfectly one of a kind.

As different as the mediums may be, these works do share something in common: the idea that a piece doesn't need to be large in size to make a major impact.

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You see, it's a Little Free Art Gallery.

"People can take a piece, they can leave a piece - or just have a look around," said creator and curator Stacy Milrany. "And people do it all."

The only guideline here? Leave the fixtures and the figurines.

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"Anybody is welcome to leave a piece," she said. "Working artists, professional artists leave pieces. Little kids leave pieces. Everybody - people of all ages leave pieces."

We saw a line of folks forming when we visited, just to get a glimpse at the treasures inside.

Over the past few months, nearly 300 pieces of art have been displayed here. There's a kind of magic in this teeny tiny space, it's like a magnet.

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"It brings people together," said Milrany. "Neighbors are out here meeting each other safely. It’s just a little surprise - it’s an unexpected surprise. And it’s nice when you see something handmade, something a human has touched."

For art lovers who can't visit in person, Milrany shares the exhibits on Instagram. When she started the Free Little Art Gallery last December, she wasn't sure what the reaction would be .

"I knew I loved the idea, and thought it would be fun and interesting but I love how much joy it’s bringing to other people," she said. "I didn’t know that it would instantly be so popular or supported."

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It has changed the landscape of the street, and how people experience it.

"It’s really fun to see people paying attention to art and looking up, instead of their own world."

Like a captivating piece of mixed media, the gallery was inspired by a combination of ideas.

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"I did it originally for my own, kind of the same reason I make art," said Milrany. "For my own joy and amusement."

Then, there's the Little Free Library a few doors down.

"And for a while I thought it would be really funny to have another ‘Little Free Library’ here as a ‘dueling Little Free Library,’" she said. "But an art gallery just made a lot more sense considering what I love to do."

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Milrany is an artist herself.

"I do acrylic paint and oil and watercolor. My work ranges from 4 x 6 inches to 4 x 6 feet," she said. "I am a pretty close observer of people in the world and a lot - a lot of my art is inspired from people - watching people, listening."

The COVID crisis impacted her art too.

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"When the pandemic [hit], I started making these very little pieces of art - 4 x 6 postcard size," said Milrany.

She started sending them to family, friends and Instagram followers.

"I ended up sending out about 500, close to 500 pieces."

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She experienced how mini masterpieces can make a big difference in someone's life, and now - she's also making that possible for others too.

"Art is a common language and it transcends time and languages and cultures and civilizations," she said. "Art of any kind - and elements of human expression of any size can bring people together, and remind people there are other people around us even if we are not physically together."