Tucked along the side of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, passers-by will find Juneau’s newest art gallery--the museum’s Free Little Art Gallery or FLAG for short. Anyone is free to add to the collection or take a pocket-sized treasure home. The gallery is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Free Little Art Gallery opens downtown

Juneau joins growing list of cities hosting FLAGs

Tucked along the side of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, passers-by will find Juneau’s newest art gallery—the museum’s Free Little Art Gallery.

The gallery resembles a miniature diorama and includes a rotating display of art. Anyone is free to add to the collection or take a pocket-sized treasure home.

In a recent interview, museum director Beth Weigel said the gallery, called FLAG for short, provides a “low-risk place to display art” and helps to build community.

“Since the Free Little Art Gallery works with miniature artworks, it is the perfect venue to inspire children, as well as adults, to display their creations and perhaps even be what inspires someone to become an artist,” Weigel wrote in a recent paper describing the project.

Finding inspiration

Weigel said the idea of a FLAG is built on the same sharing principle that inspires the Little Free Library Concept.

She said the gallery consists of a repurposed display case. The display is mounted on the outside of the historic Veteran’s Building, which houses the museum.

Staff members added shelves and paint, and the maintenance crew installed the display under an outdoor light and set it back out the weather. Artists and collectors can access the gallery without entering the building. So, they can stop by at any time to scoop up or leave a treasure.

“FLAG’s are reminiscent of the endless childhood hours spent creating tiny tableaus or scenes from collected treasures like rocks and feathers mixed with tiny figurines or other miniatures,” she wrote in a paper explaining the project and posted by the Alaska Humanities Forum.

Weigel explained that Juneau’s first FLAG came out of an ongoing project with the Alaska Humanities Forum that looks at what’s possible when community and media connect. She said in this case, she and her collaborators took a broad view of the term media.

“Our small group of Fellows, geographically centered on Southeast Alaska, wanted to know what happens when you look beyond western culture’s dominant forms of media. What stories do we see about communities when you expand your definition of the medium? Our collaboration into this space sent us in many directions,” she wrote. “We finally convened on a common medium used throughout our region: the community bulletin board. We wanted to know: what stories are told when the telling is completely decentralized? What do these boards say about a place and a people in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic as an organic, community-driven storyspace?”

Celebration marks completion of mural

How it works

The gallery operates on an honor system, with people taking and leaving the lilliputian pieces as they pass by.

Weigel said museum staff adds things from time to time, like a handful of photographs that appeared in the gallery this week. Earlier this summer, the staff put supplies into the box and encouraged people to create flags to celebrate the FLAG.

Weigel said she’s been surprised by the variety of items that artisans and crafters have dropped off. She said origami pieces had appeared alongside jewelry, collages, watercolors and painted rocks.

Overall, she thinks there have been slightly more things taken from the display than added but said there are usually items in the gallery.

Weigel asks that people collecting treasures leave the easels and other display pieces behind.

She said she’s surprised by how quickly some items move through the gallery, with some pieces being picked up shortly after they are added to the collection.

Labor of love: Union collects for service organizations

Growing popularity

According to the Washington Post, the Free Little Art Gallery concept is growing in neighborhoods across the country and started as a response to pandemic-related restrictions that made it difficult for art lovers to visit museums and for artists to display work.

The Washinton Post resorts similar installations in Seattle, Texas, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Illinois.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of May 22, 2022

Here’s what to expect this week.

Coast Guard aircrews medevaced two people from Dry Bay Airstrip, approximately 30 miles Southeast of Yakutat, Alaska, after their plane crashed, May 25, 2022. (Courtesy photo / Coast Guard District 17)
Three medevaced after plane crash near Yakutat

All four aboard were injured, three critically so.

The author’s appreciation for steelhead has turned into something like reverence considering what’s happening to populations in the Lower 48 and Canada. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: Silent steel

“You forget most of what ends up in the freezer, but those steelhead, they stick with you.”

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, seen here in this June 16, 2021, file photo, announced Wednesday he will not seek relelection in the Alaska State Senate, where he has served since 2013. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Senate president says he won’t run again

“Honor and a privilege.”

Hoonah’s Alaska Youth Stewards helped make improvements to Moby and water the plants in summer 2021. (Courtesy Photo / Jillian Schuyler)
Resilient Peoples & Place: Moby the Mobile Greenhouse cultivates community

It presents opportunities to grow food knowledge and skills.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, May 26, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Supreme Court orders use of interim map for elections

The decision came just over a week before the June 1 filing deadline for the August primaries.

A male red-winged blackbird displays his showy red patches and calls to a rival male (Gina Vose photo)
On the Trails: Birds and beetles at Kingfisher Pond

Something is almost always happening at Kingfisher Pond.

Most Read