Neighbours are becoming artists as Bowness offers its own twist on the growing free library trend

James Ziegler says several art galleries are now open with six neighbours taking part in the creative effort

By Nadia Moharib | June 16, 2022 |5:00 am

Bowness neighbours James Ziegler and Neil Liske beside one of several galleries showcased in their community. By day, the tiny art pieces are bathed in sunlight and at night solar lighting illuminates the galleries.

Photo: Nadia Moharib

A decidedly artistic twist to the good ol’ little free library concept has emerged on the streets of Bowness. 

The Little Gallery on the Bow is a group of miniature collections showcasing everything from sculptures to paintings and metal pieces donated by everyone from imaginative dabblers to bona fide professional artists. 

James Ziegler says several of the gallery doors are now open with six neighbours taking part in the creative effort, each eventually planning to open their own stand-alone public exhibits along Bowness Crescent, NW.  Anyone and everyone is welcome to visit the Bowness attraction. 

A stylish twist on a popular concept 

Not unlike those little free libraries, which are commonplace in communities across the city, the galleries are presented in wooden structures placed out in front of homes. 

But unlike those book exchanges, these galleries stand on stylish, stained cedar posts Ziegler fashioned into curvy, wave-like four-foot supports. 

These are, afterall, art galleries deserving of something with a little more panache. And as such, Ziegler says, a straight, square post simply wouldn’t do.

“It also softens the connection to the ground,” adds fellow artist, gallery owner and neighbour, Neil Liske. 

Albeit delightfully small-scale, the galleries appear every bit as posh as any. They have a glass front, stark white walls and pieces positioned just so to ensure a wonderful visitor experience.

“These are quality art galleries in miniature,” Ziegler says.

Turning residents into curators 

Each resident is the curator of their gallery. But they are not the only ones supplying it with art. 

While likely unheard of in a conventional gallery, each Little Gallery on the Bow is designed to not only share art but to encourage the sharing of art with its open-the-door policy.

Here’s how it works. 

Gallery visitors who like something they see are welcome to add it to their own collections. If they take something home, however, they must leave something behind. 

A young boy who fancied a Calgary Flames painting stretching maybe five inches wide caught on quickly. He initially left behind a dime in exchange for the acrylic artwork piece but — sticking to the sports theme — later added a hockey puck to the gallery, decorated with a colourful, whimsical scene of sunshine rising over a body of water.

A different experience every visit 

The constant exchange of art means the galleries are dynamic and often different day-to-day — and they are open round-the-clock. 

By day, the intriguing pieces are visible in the glass-front cases, bathed in natural sunlight coming in through roof-top windows. But when darkness falls, each gallery is equipped with solar lighting that illuminates the space.

Liske, a veteran artist and a Bownesian since 1985, was thrilled to be on board the artistic endeavour which brings creativity to the community but offers a lovely freedom that isn’t found in commissioned work.  

“It completely frees up my imagination,” he says. 

Showcasing art while inspiring more 

That, Ziegler adds, is the intent of the cluster of unique ways to showcase art — to inspire others to create their own pieces and even bring a little creativity to their own communities with galleries of their own.

“It would be so nice if the project caught on,” he says.

While the unusual roadside attractions do draw in some people passing by to stop and peer in, they have not garnered any attention from ne’er do wells. 

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Nadia Moharib

Nadia is a contributor with Calgary Citizen.

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