The Little Free Art Gallery

Bree Kalb, curator of Carrboro’s Little Free Art Gallery (left), talks with visitors, Grace from Connecticut (center) and Molly from Chicago (right) about the Little Free Art Gallery. Photo credit: Jane Brown.


By Jane D. Brown

The next time you are heading to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, check out the Little Free Art Gallery located at 301 W. Weaver St. You might have thought it was a little free library, but even better, it’s an art gallery. And everything in it (except the easels) is free for the taking and appreciating.

The brainchild of Carrboro resident Bree Kalb, the gallery was installed in January and has been delighting passers-by ever since.

Bree said she likes to think of the gallery as evidence of the community spirit of Carrboro and environs. A local woodworker, Bill Anderson, built the lovely box and installed tiny solar lights; Sparrow and Sons Plumbing Co. planted the post securely in concrete. Susan Delaney, a naturopath, and one of the principle owners of the Wellness Alliance, provided the space on their front lawn. Bree and other artists donate their work.

Two recent visitors, Grace from Connecticut and Molly from Chicago, understood Bree’s premise. They wrote, “Thanks for sharing this with the community.” Grace and Molly said they liked the art Bree created from a cocktail napkin.

Bree said, “Everything I do is recycling. I like it because it gets me to my art table using up my supplies.”

Bree, a retired clinical social worker, is not a professional artist. She began exploring her artistic interest in Sue Anderson’s Creativity 101 class at the Arts Center 25 years ago. She then spent two years training to be an Expressive Arts Therapist that she used in her individual practice and creativity workshops. She taught her clients “not how to be an artist, but that you are an artist.”

Hannah Steen, a UNC graduate student, on her first Saturday morning exploring Carrboro, said, “I love it! I love Carrboro. You see random things like this that you don’t expect.” 

The gallery is so popular that Bree replenishes it every three days. If something doesn’t get taken right away, she takes it out for a couple of weeks and then puts it back. Most all the donated art is appreciated by someone. Bree posts images of her new “shows” on the gallery’s Instagram page: @littlefreeartgallerycarrboro; and on Facebook: little free art gallery-carrboro.

Although Bree knows of only two or three little art galleries in North Carolina, she follows about 150 that exist in other states and countries, including Australia and in Europe. A world map of the known little free art galleries can be seen HERE. The idea began in Washington state early in the COVID pandemic as a way to create artistic “adventure without going into a store.”

A “show” in the Little Free Art Gallery in Carrboro. Photo credit: Jane Brown.

The gallery’s motto, “Take one/ leave one” (but you don’t have to leave one) encourages artists and would-be artists. Bree said her definition of art is “really broad” and abstract paintings to tiny ‘zines have been donated.

Some well-known local artists, such as Luna Lee Ray, a painter, and Karen Fisher, a potter, have left tiny works. Kerri Bosman donates delightful crocheted pins and hearts that were especially popular around Valentine’s Day, and greeting cards featuring her photographs.

Since it is a small space, the maximum dimensions of donations are 5” by 8” – about the size of a postcard.

Gabrielle Strum and her dog, Bubbles, stopped by recently. Gabrielle said she works at the nearby Carrboro Animal Hospital and walks around the block two to three times a day.

“I always look to see what’s new in the gallery and sometimes I donate odd tidbits of art that crowd my space,” she said. “This is such a marvelous idea!”

Gabrielle said one time someone left a note saying that they’d lost one of a pair of earrings and hoped the artist would make another. A few days later she saw a thank you note for the replaced earring.

“I get so excited when my friends donate and especially when people I don’t know leave their art,” Bree said. “And, it’s exciting to see how many people are taking pieces. This obviously fills a need. I feel like a Momma bird feeding my nestlings.”

Bree encourages all passersby to peruse the gallery, take something that catches their fancy, and perhaps leave something that may delight others.

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3 Comments on "The Little Free Art Gallery"

  1. Nanci Ballantyne | July 16, 2022 at 6:14 am | Reply

    I love this so much! Kudos to Bree for quenching the need for connection and beauty in our community!

  2. Thank you, Jane, for such well written and accurate reporting. The LFAG is thriving and I expect this article will add many more patrons—both giving and receiving.

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