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Mindlessly doom scrolling on Instagram can sometimes be worthwhile. This was the case when I came across the account @tinyartshow. I was delighted to see the miniature works of art displayed in detailed golden frames. Better yet, tiny art shows invite unsuspecting viewers to get up close. After a couple of likes, I knew I had to create a tiny art show with my own students.
1. Using original or printed artwork. Cut paper ahead of time so that students can create little original works of art for display. This is a great assignment for early finishers. Or, take photos and create scaled-down miniature replicas of students’ original artwork. Try importing the photos into Photoshop or even PowerPoint to shrink them down. Place the images on a digital black background. When printed, a black frame will already exist around the tiny images.
2. Laminate for protection. School hallways see a lot of traffic. If works are located in an area where mopping, sweeping, spraying, or just about any cleaning takes place, use that laminator! By laminating the tiny artworks, they will withstand the school-based elements and curious fingerprints. This decision could also lead to potential outdoor exhibitions around the school grounds or local community. If you don’t have access to a laminator, try using layers of packing tape to do the trick.
3. Location is key. Think about a school building’s unused spaces or tucked away corners. A busy hallway where traffic jams occur regularly is not the best location for a tiny art show. Also, consider varying the height of the exhibitions. Artwork hung at different heights will keep all school community members looking and heighten their sense of awareness (pun intended). Consider placing works on the floor, above a bulletin board, or attached to a door frame. Be sure to stay away from any fire alarms or extinguishers.
4. Add signage to promote discovery. The works on view can include tiny representations of larger art already on display in the school. Post a sign directing the viewer to an accompanying tiny art show somewhere in the building to discover. Signage could prompt a purposeful hunt for the hidden art.
5. Add tiny gallery-goers. Small characters are not necessary, but they do provide scale and context for the artworks. In some cases, passersby see the small characters before noticing the artwork, pulling them in to discover the exhibition. You can easily purchase these characters online. They come in varying sizes and quality. When buying gallery-viewers, pay attention to the scale ratio of the characters. I use a 1:50 scale character in our tiny art shows. Attach the plastic individuals to the ground in front of the displayed art with hot glue. Remember, the minuscule art patrons do not only have to be humans. Art teacher Ashley McKee uses plastic dinosaurs and animals as gallery-goers in her school’s tiny art shows.
6. Share with others. Post images of your tiny art shows on social media to create buzz around the most recent installation. Only reveal enough information about the location to generate intrigue among students and staff. Tiny visual clues may result in a hunt around the building.
7. Once they are up, they are up… until they are not. Because different viewers can discover these works at various times, the art shows could stay up for as long as possible. But, by changing them out and keeping things fresh, you’ll continue to generate the most interest.
8. Create a tiny art gallery in a dollhouse. Some teachers opt to find a new or retired dollhouse and breathe life into it as a mini gallery. If this option interests you, be sure to regularly switch out the works and display the house in a prominent location.
The investment is small, just like the work itself. Still, the pay-offs could be enormous as students and staff engage with artworks in new, exciting ways. Consider a tiny art show as a new adventure in art appreciation.
Where could you set up a tiny art show that is protected and also visible to others?
What digital photos do you already have that could be re-sized into tiny artworks for an exhibition?
Where else, besides a school building, could you display tiny art shows?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.