Free Little Art Gallery paints tiny picture with bigger message

The exterior of the Free Little Art Gallery is cozy and welcoming. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer

Moving to a new town comes with surprises and uncertainties. When Alec Land, freshman at Waco High School, moved to his new home in Waco, it came with something he wasn’t expecting — a neighborhood library. These little libraries have popped up around the country, sharing a love of books with the block. Land, however, had a different vision for this tiny house. Within a month and half, he created his Free Little Art Gallery.

With a shingled roof, a fresh coat of light blue paint and new wood flooring, Land made public art for every passerby to see. The Free Little Art Gallery is located on 1208 N 15th St. and visitors may see Land peeking through the window to see who strolls by.

People are welcome to take and leave art as they please. Grace Everett | Photographer
People are welcome to take and leave art as they please. Grace Everett | Photographer

“I’ve always been an artsy person and to be able to share that with someone is special to me,” Land said.

Land began his art journey when he asked his parents to enroll him in a watercolor class for Christmas. He enjoyed it so much he asked for a second class for his birthday. His father, Lucas, said when they previously homeschooled their children, they always focused on highlighting the interests of each of their kids.

“It was really natural when Alec wanted watercolor class for Christmas that we were like, ‘Let’s make it happen,'” Lucas said. “I think he was really inspired by doing all of that art and finding something that he was really good at.”

Lucas said Alec was immediately incredible at watercolor paintings, which is why the Free Little Art Gallery prints are all made in this medium. Alec isn’t the only creator in this process; they have had several gallery parties with wine, cheese and miniature canvases so guests can create art for the gallery, too.

“Learning from other artists about how to make prints, how to sell, how to price and how to do commissions,” Lucas said. “You have to think all of those are different avenues that are helpful for being able to have a career doing art, and not be that stereotypical starving artist.”

Mini contributions left at the Free Little Art Gallery. Grace Everett | Photographer
Mini contributions left at the Free Little Art Gallery. Grace Everett | Photographer

Alec also learned from his supporters how to handle the not-so-picturesque parts of being an artist. In January, someone threw a brick through the window of the art gallery, destroying the glass and the items inside. Alec, however, was not alone; he received more than 20 comments on social media from people giving their condolences and offering to help fix the gallery.

“It felt really great to hear that and to know that people were still supporting me and were helping me with it,” Alec said. “We had a friend that offered to fix the door so we got new glass on it and it’s all fixed and back up and running.”

After the damage, Alec created a space-themed gallery with a crescent moon rug and galaxy-themed prints. His little easels held more than just the picture: it held a message that anyone can create art.

The Lands will be moving to Colorado in March for a new job opportunity, but Alec said he is hoping the gallery will live on. Alec has already received direct messages from someone in Waco wanting to start their own Free Little Art Gallery and he has given them a plethora of advice.

“With moving away, I’m hoping to inspire people in the same way,” Alec Land said. “I have learned that a lot of adults don’t really know how to be creative and do art.”

Alec’s gallery shows that creativity doesn’t stop once a person becomes an adult. This is why the Free Little Art Gallery includes work from all ages and can be viewed by all ages. The gallery is on display until March 12.

“One of the things I love about the project is that it’s public art — it’s for everyone,” Lucas said. “It’s encouraging everybody to participate and also making it easy by saying ‘just make something small.’”