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251: A Mini Art Gallery in Middlebury

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Free Little Art Gallery at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Free Little Art Gallery at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury
The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History in Middlebury will open on July 13, marking the return of visitors to the museum after an 18-month absence. But a small annex of the museum — emphasis on small — is currently open daily from dawn to dusk. The mini delight on Park Street is a make-it, take-it gallery similar in size and feel to a free little street library.

The Free Little Art Gallery is housed in a glass case at the entrance to the Sheldon’s lovely flower garden. Its contents change as people contribute a piece of art they make or select one to take. Drawings on paper, paintings on canvas and a ceramic vessel were among the pieces on display early this week. A clutch of yellow flowers set below an abstract painting echoed a hue on the canvas.

Sheldon Museum associate director Mary Manley read about a similar gallery in Seattle and thought it would be neat to make one in Middlebury, she said.  Then, last spring, a free little gallery opened in Essex Junction.



Manley said she’s hopeful similar galleries will pop up around the state.  A June 5 article in the Washington Post describes a national trend of Free Little Art Galleries, or FLAGs.

Free Little Art Gallery in Middlebury - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Free Little Art Gallery in Middlebury
The Sheldon's gallery  is designed on a scale of 1:12, in which one inch is a foot in a standard gallery. It’s intended for works of art, as opposed to miniatures like doll house furniture or trinkets.  Size-appropriate canvases lean against a wall for the taking — an offering of en-
Free Little Art Gallery in Middlebury - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Free Little Art Gallery in Middlebury
couragement for would-be artists.  Mounting material is provided to hang art.

“People who are established artists have participated, as well as young kids,” Manley said. “It’s been really fun. We encourage the community to take part."

The tiny museum in front of the big one — the latter a repository of regional art, objects and history that opened in 1884 — can be appreciated in a matter of moments. But let it welcome you to the grounds of the Sheldon with its beautiful plantings, sculptures, and stone benches — a peaceful oasis in the center of Middlebury.

Kate Pond sculpture at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Kate Pond sculpture at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury
These days, the garden also presents a preview of sculptor Kate Pond’s forthcoming exhibit at the Sheldon, “From the Heart: A Sculptor’s Process." Three sculptures by the Burlington-based artist are in the garden, including a maquette of  "Kiss #2," her piece in front of the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington.

How wonderful that a renowned artist's metal sculpture shares space on the grass with a child’s drawing of a rainbow.

"Come by and come often," Manley said of the people's gallery. "Because it changes."
Garden entrance to the Henry Sheldon Museum - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Garden entrance to the Henry Sheldon Museum

251 is a series of on-the-road stories, coming soon to a town near you.

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