The little free art gallery


By Jane D. Brown


The local journalist

Next time you visit the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, check out the Little Free Art Gallery at 301 W. Weaver St. You might have thought it was a little free library, but still better, it’s an art gallery. And everything in it (except the easels) is free to pick up and enjoy.

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 proof of the community spirit of Carrboro and the surrounding area. A local carpenter, Bill Anderson, built the pretty box and installed tiny solar lights; Sparrow and Sons Plumbing Co. set the pole firmly in concrete. Susan Delaney, naturopath and one of the principal owners of the Wellness Alliance, provided the space on their lawn. Bree and other artists donate their work.

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

Bree said: “All I do is recycle. I like this because it gets me to my art table using 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 trained for two years to become an expressive arts therapist which 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.”

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

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

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

A “show” at 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 aspiring artists. Bree said her definition of art is “very broad” and abstract paintings from tiny ‘zines were given.

Some well-known local artists, like Luna Lee Ray, a painter, and Karen Fisher, a potter, left tiny works. Kerri Bosman is donating lovely pins and crochet hearts that were especially popular on Valentine’s Day, as well as greeting cards with her photographs.

Since this is a small space, the maximum dimensions for donations are 5 inches by 8 inches, or about the size of a postcard.

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

“I’m always looking to see what’s new in the gallery and sometimes I donate weird pieces of art that clutter up my space,” she said. “That’s such a wonderful idea!”

Gabrielle said that once someone left a note saying they had lost a pair of earrings and hoped the artist would make another one. 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 quit 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 mother bird feeding my baby birds.

Bree encourages all passers-by to browse the gallery, pick up something they like, and maybe leave something that others might enjoy.

William E. Bennett