(CNN) — An artist yearning to help people connect during the coronavirus pandemic has created a miniature art gallery that invites visitors to keep the art.
In December, Stacy Milrany put up a white wooden box that held an unexpected treasure in front of her home, nestled in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood.
Inside the box was a mini art gallery, complete with small shelves and easels that hold artworks. She called it the Little Free Art Gallery, inspired by the nonprofit organization Little Free Library which makes book-sharing boxes.
"During this pandemic, everybody has been trying to find ways to bring more light to each other, to bring some hope, to create more fun, especially through creative ways to connect with each other when we've been physically cut off," Milrany told CNN.
"It's a nice little surprise for people, but it's also a joy for me to see creativity in font of my house."
Stacy Milrany adding art to her Little Free Art Gallery.
Courtesy Winnie Westergard
Unlike traditional museums, Milrany's gallery encourages spectators to keep their favorite artwork. The only elements they can't remove are the plastic miniature gallery figures placed in front of the art.
And she loves it when people leave behind art of their own to replace the pieces they took. That isn't a requirement.
On the first day of her opening -- which featured her painting titled "Cat Hair" -- Milrany shared the project on Instagram and the neighborhood app Nextdoor. Within days,10 pieces had already come and gone, she said.
When she has time, Milrany meets the people who share their art while other days she just watches as the gallery changes, usually about five times a day.
Some of the gallery's visitors, she says, are so invested they come by several times a day.
Due to the pandemic, many museums and art galleries are closed. In states where they're open, not everyone feels comfortable visiting.
Despite the distance people are experiencing from public spaces and each other, Milrany says her project has helped people connect.
"It makes me feel like I'm helping in some kind of way, especially at a time when loneliness multiplied in the past year because of the pandemic," Milrany said. "It's getting people to go out to see what their neighbors are contributing, and people who put their own artwork that gets claimed know somebody has enjoyed their little masterpiece."
Since her tiny gallery opened over a month ago, more than 100 works of art have been displayed and taken home by visitors.
One of Milrany's own pieces, titled "MLK," featured in her mini art gallery on MLK Day.
Courtesy Stacy Milrany
"I'm overjoyed that people are finding some fun and hope in it," Milrany said. "It gives me hope in people, in the US, in humanity for appreciating these little sentiments of human expression, the authenticity, the real stuff."
People who share their own work showcase various art genres, ranging from traditional oil paintings and conceptual art to sculptures and collages.
Along with spreading joy, Milrany uses her tiny art gallery -- which she plans to rename Free Little Art Gallery to avoid confusion with the mini libraries -- to give local artists a chance to be noticed. When artists sign their work, Milrany posts it on Instagram and tags the creator.
The gallery owner says she hopes her project will inspire others around the country to borrow the idea and install tiny art galleries of their own.