Don’t blink or you’ll miss it: ‘Tiny Art 4 All Gallery Project’ pops up along Rail Trail in Florence

By MERCY LINGLE

For the Gazette

Published: 06-23-2023 2:26 PM

Along the Rail Trail between King Street and Bridge Street in Florence, there are five tiny galleries containing interactive art by local artists, students and makers. The project is titled the “Tiny Art 4 All Gallery Project” and everything from squirrel shrines to mini haunted houses is on display.

The first round of exhibits, which will each be given a two-month time slot, was unveiled on Sunday, June 11. Around 75 people came to walk or ride along the bike trail to see the various galleries. Over the next year, 30 different exhibits will be displayed to bikers, walkers and critters alike.

The aforementioned squirrel shrine was created by local artist, Lynn Sisler. Alongside her display, Sisler made a series of ceramic squirrel magnets that people can take home. Inside the gallery, there is a mural depicting squirrels doing various activities, and at the center of it all, there is a shine made of natural objects which people can add to. “The bike path is their domain,” project founder Kim Carlino said of the squirrels, making the squirrel shrine incredibly fitting.

Ceramics artist and South Hadley resident Mike Medeiros will occupy a gallery space until August, and his exhibit is titled “We Are All Gardens Haunted by Each Other.” His space features terra-cotta cauldrons adorned with words and phrases written by Emily Dickinson in her personal letters.

As for the interactive aspect of Medeiros’s exhibit, those who choose to participate may take home one of the ceramic pots in exchange for their time writing down a gardening memory in a notebook which Medeiros left in the mini-gallery. Medeiros has made about twenty pots which he will place in his gallery throughout the time he has to showcase his art. His exhibit is a continuation of a project which he began before “Tiny Art 4 All,” and which he will continue after it concludes. 

Artist Anne Suethe’s exhibit is titled “A Time To Cast Away Stones / A Time To Gather Stones Together,” and it is an homage to the 250,000 miles of stone walls that once existed in New England, sections of which are still around. People who choose to engage with the exhibit will be invited to deposit a stone in the gallery and write a nature-related word on it. The stones will then be reorganized to form a wall of sorts and used to create “found poems,” in Suethe’s words.

“Tiny Art 4 All Gallery Project” was co-founded by Kim Carlino and Freeman Stein. Carlino was originally inspired to make this project happen in 2021 when she began the rail trail project “Blossom,” which was part of the Bike Path Beautification Project in Northampton. Carlino painted several colorful rectangular blocks along the path, featuring flowers, various bright shades of pink and purple, and a sign which welcomes the viewer to Florence. Around the same time that she was wrapping up this project, Carlino noticed a growing trend of tiny art galleries popping up globally. Though she normally engages in large-scale art projects, she stated that she likes “everything in extreme,” so the jump from massive art to mini-galleries was not so surprising.

Carlino and Stein chose the length of the bike trail between King Street and Bridge Road during a bike ride with Tom Annese, an employee of the Northampton City Planning Department, who helped them pick out the best locations for the galleries. They said they chose this stretch because it was popular and would attract many passersby, but also because it provided ample space for people to dismount bikes and interact with the art. In Carlino’s words, the placement of the galleries allows people to “stumble across” the art.

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Two years after Carlino’s initial idea, the galleries, built by Barry Feingold, Chuck Hommes and John Power, are open to the public for viewing and interaction. The project is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, Art Always and High Five Books, among others.

Every single exhibit is meant to be admired visually and physically manipulated. Every artist began their project with the understanding that their creation might be vulnerable to destruction, but Carlino stated that she likes “to have faith and believe in people,” and hopes that none of the art will be irreparably destroyed. Overall, Carlino is excited that these galleries will be accessible to the public, as the art showcased in the exhibits “really is for everyone.”

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