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In Tacoma, a tiny art gallery makes a big difference

Sarah Jane Hoppe's pandemic era gesture continues to entertain her neighborhood. #k5evening

TACOMA, Wash. — Ever since an art teacher handed her a glue stick in elementary school, Sarah Jane Hoppe has loved cutting up paper and making colorful collages.

"You can be quirky and wacky and kooky and colorful or you can be dramatic and serious," she said.

Six months into the pandemic and frustrated by the isolation we were all feeling, Hoppe (her name is pronounced "hope") decided to share her art with neighbors. And that's why a small red box showed up in her front yard on the corner of North 22nd and Cedar.

"At first it was just a reason for me to have a goal every month to produce something interesting and fresh," Hoppe said. 

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Through winter, spring, and summer Hoppe always had something new to exhibit in the Tiny Art Gallery on Cedar.

"I like so much about it," said Tim Miller. "It's there in a space where it's approachable literally to anyone." 

Miller didn't just like the concept. He wanted to contribute. During the summer of 2021, when temperatures hit 108 here, he created a show called Beach Or Tundra, with tiny images painted on plastic fingernails.

Credit: Sarah Jane Hoppe
A magnified view of Tim Miller's fingernail paintings at the Tiny Art Gallery.

"It was kind of a comment on how the climate is changing," Miller said.

Steve LaBerge, the artist most responsible for UFO sightings in Tacoma, contributed a show featuring felted space orbs.

"You would be amazed at the amount of aliens and observers you can fit in this tiny gallery," Hoppe smiled. "It's pretty impressive."

Credit: Sarah Jane Hoppe
The felted spaceships exhibit by Steve LaBerge.

Kim Fits offered bite sized works of art while Vanessa Mercedes celebrated the migratory birds of Mexico and Latin America, a statement about the natural inclination to move from one place to another.

"So it's kind of been a fun way to meet folks and help folks get their artwork out," Hoppe said.  

Credit: Sarah Jane Hoppe
Vanessa Mercedes contributed an exhibit of migratory birds from Mexico and Central America.

On one of those dreary autumn afternoons when Mother Nature can't make up her mind, Hoppe took down her own Halloween themed show so Tawni Bell could quickly install a 3-D collage in the rain.

Credit: KING TV
Tawni Bell installs her collage into The Tiny Art Gallery on Cedar.

"Come on magic of math let's do this," Bell said. "Oh my god! It fits perfect! I can't believe it!"

Bell calls her flowery collage a smile piece. She just wants to brighten someone's day the way Sarah Jane has brightened hers.

RELATED: 'Smallest, free-est art gallery in the universe' is a Queen Anne favorite

"It's just amazing," she said. "Because not very many people get asked to put their work into galleries and there are a lot of people who make things."

What's inside that little box is a gift for the entire neighborhood.

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