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Brantford’s second-ever Free Little Art Gallery joins the Eagle Place community

Arts and EntertainmentBrantford’s second-ever Free Little Art Gallery joins the Eagle Place community

Brantford’s second-ever Free Little Art Gallery (FLAG), was officially installed in Eagle Place on Thursday, November 30, 2023.

Similar to the free little libraries that have been constructed around town, where you take a book or leave a book, the FLAG offers a chance for residents to share art with one another.

The idea for the FLAG was first established when ViBrant ARC, Community Living Brant and Belonging Brant were working together on a panel for the TH&B Bridge Crossing art project.

“One day I was there painting and a woman who is involved in Community Living Brant, came up to me and said, ‘you know, we should put up Free Little Art Galleries around here.’ I turned around to say ‘ya, that would be a great idea!’ but she had disappeared,” laughed Sharon Gashgarian of ViBrant ARC. “Later, I ended up bringing the idea to one of our brainstorming sessions and everybody seemed to be really interested and then I just ran with it.”

With a part of the funding coming from Belonging Brant, Gashgarian was also able to get Home Depot to jump on board and provide some supplies to build the galleries, however, there was still the matter of who would build them.

Gashgarian soon began making phone calls to various high schools around the city as she knew that many of them often did private work for citizens.

“I thought it would be a good jumping off point to find out if someone else could make them. I made about four calls to the local high schools and many of them said they couldn’t do it,” she said. “Then I spoke with this lovely man, Neville Heuser, a teacher at BCI, and asked if they could help us out. When he said yes, I nearly dropped the phone because I had heard so many ‘no’s,’ but he was really eager.”

Eagle Place’s new Free Little Art Gallery, which features miniature art made by members of the neighbourhood, sits on display on Thursday, November 30, 2023.

With community involvement in mind, Gashgarian soon had potential designs posted at a few of the ViBrant ARC’s Salon sessions held at Glenhyrst Art Gallery’s Coach House, and had attendees vote for which designs they liked.

The FLAG design is one that you would often see from the free little libraries, with an added bonus of a bottom shelf to host art supplies for others to contribute, an idea Gashgarian said she had seen from a teacher in Hamilton who did the same thing.

BCI students have now made four FLAG boxes, with the first being installed at 77 Pearl St. in the summer, and the second now sits at the corner of Brighton Avenue and Webling Street in the Eagle Place neighbourhood.

The other two are set to be installed at North Park Collegiate and the fourth will be at the Dunn Building on Elgin Street.

When it comes to how this second location came together, Jackie Cooper and her partner Jarrod W. Clegg, said it felt like it was “meant to be.”

The two moved from Etobicoke to Brantford nearly two-and-a-half years ago and have been looking for ways to be more involved in their community since then.

With their family and friends living farther away, Cooper joined the Eagle Place Community Association (EPCA) as a way to meet new people and give back to the community.

The Free Little Art Gallery, which features a poem written by Jackie Cooper, was installed on Thursday, November 30, 2023.

When Cooper saw an article and a Facebook post about the first FLAG installation, she was intrigued.

“There was just this overwhelming feeling that I needed to have one,” she said. “I eventually emailed EPNA and asked if they knew anyone involved, and the president actually reached out and said that she knew ViBrant Arc was looking for people to put a FLAG on their property.”

After several discussions, ViBrant ARC and the EPNA soon set up a Miniature Art Workshop at the Doug Snooks Community Centre, and held it on Monday, November 27. Together, they invited the community to come out, no matter their artistic skill, to help contribute to the neighbourhood’s first ever FLAG.

“The workshop was amazing and so many people asked if we were going to have another one, so people are really interested in this,” said Cooper. “It’s something we plan on continuing throughout the year and I’ve already had people who have volunteered to teach or lead the workshops going forward. I really think it’s just a great opportunity to get people involved and have Eagle Place engaged in the art community.”

The resident said that the project goes beyond being a simple box.

“It’s about how do we fill the box and how do we get the community to contribute to it? For myself, I’ve always been very interested in community building and getting the community together through different ways, so I’m excited for what this project can bring to this neighbourhood,” said Cooper. “Eagle Place often gets a certain reputation and people don’t realize how great it really is so I feel like this can help in continuing to change that.”

Cooper said that while the project is similar to the free little libraries, there’s something special about the FLAG.

“I just like the idea of leaving your art for somebody or getting a chance to put your art on display,” she said. “So many people don’t realize they’re artists, you know?”

The couple said that, as a way to document the art that comes and goes, they will also be setting up a Facebook page for the FLAG so that people can follow along and keep up with workshop dates.

Clegg said that now that the FLAG is officially installed, he’s excited for what’s to come.

“I’m just really looking forward to having that first person take an art piece, as well as, for the first person to leave something of their own,” he said.

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