In the space left by a missing brick in a West Nashville wall, there’s a tiny art gallery — complete with its own lighting and very small sculptures and paintings by Nashville artists.
Ben Griffith says it’s all about having fun with art. In that spirit, visitors are directed to the gallery via scavenger hunt. (Go to Griffith’s website and click “Clues for Gallery 1.”)
The idea came at Griffith’s go-to haunt, Headquarters Coffee, in his West Nashville neighborhood of Richland Park. One day he noticed half a brick missing in the coffee house wall.
The staff had started putting little things in it: a little table, a portrait of someone, an alien figurine.
“The moment I saw it,” Griffith says, “I went home and painted a tiny little piece and made a tiny little frame and put it in there without asking.”
He put out a call for artists. The criteria for the work? It had to be a couple of inches or less. The only caveat was that it could be destroyed or stolen. And yet, he received submissions, like tiny paintings of leaping ballerinas and a blue octopus, a metalwork Nashville skyline, and sculptures, like the 2 ½ inch tall oblong head with an elongated nose and bulging eyes.
The gallery is outdoors, and it lights up on a timer at night.
“Part of what makes me happy about it,” Griffith says, “is just imagining a homeless person seeing a light glowing in a wall and walking up like, ‘What is this?'”
This sentiment isn’t far fetched for Griffith. He used to work at Oasis Center with homeless kids. Most people, he says, last one year in this line of work. He lasted seven and a half.
“You have to find joy in the fact that somebody smiled or cried or shared something with you or told the truth or told a lie and that was something they needed to do to survive,” he says.
This is what drove Griffith to art. He needed something to balance out the daily trauma he experienced vicariously through the kids he served. He took an art class in college and has no other formal training, but he started painting.
These days, he’s hustling to sell paintings in pop-up galleries and weekend art markets. Though he has to make sales to pay the bills, his dream is to get to a place where he can give his art away. “I sold a kid one for a quarter one time and it was my happiest sale ever,” he says.
The Tiny Art Gallery has been outdoors for two months, exposed to the elements and anyone who wants to take it. But it’s still intact.
Griffith just launched Tiny Gallery 2, open to anyone who wants to find it.