Karen Anderson and Sarah Meng, co-directors of Tiny Doors ATL. (Courtesy photo)

Curious city-dwellers finding surprise art thanks to Tiny Doors ATL

With all the roadwork projects, mixed-use development construction and other endeavors going on throughout the city of Atlanta, is there really room for another one? There is, as long as it’s…tiny. Enter Tiny Doors ATL, a public art project bringing curious city-dwellers together one door at a time.

The seeds of the idea were planted last summer when Karen Anderson and Sarah Meng, who both identify as queer femme, met in the crowd at a Tae Kwan Do tournament. Meng was embroidering, which caught the eye of Anderson, a professional cake artist with a degree in visual art.

Later, Anderson told Meng about the Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Anderson’s hometown. The Fairy Doors were first relegated to the home of an Ann Arbor couple before the doors started appearing in public in 2005.

“Her idea was that we start putting those around Atlanta but in a way that felt more about our city,” Meng says. “Less about fairies and more about the idea that anyone could live there.”

And Tiny Doors ATL, a “small artist cooperative” as they put it, was born, with Anderson and Meng as co-directors. But where would the first door go?

The Tiny Door in the Krog Street Tunnel. (Courtesy photo)
The Tiny Door in the Krog Street Tunnel. (Courtesy photo)

A tiny movement begins

Tiny Doors ATL is a continuation of the conversation about public art in Atlanta. That conversation got a double-shot of momentum in 2010 with the introduction of Art on the BeltLine and the Living Walls mural project.

But long before that came the Krog Street Tunnel, Atlanta’s dark, dingy and true sanctuary for street art. And that’s where the first Tiny Door appeared last June, with no announcement, no fanfare, no social media updates.

Slowly but surely, things started appearing at the door. A jack-o-lantern on Halloween. A bunch of little plastic kittens waiting to be let in from the cold.

By November, they put a second door up on the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine and created Facebook and Instagram pages to interact with the public about the project.

Then people started soliciting Meng and Anderson, like Inman Park Pet Works, Little Shop of Stories and Trees Atlanta. The ribbon cutting for Tiny Door #6 happened earlier this month on the Atlanta BeltLine behind Paris on Ponce, with a little Rosie the Riveter doing the honors.

“Karen and I always go to the site and walk around for awhile and try to pick a place where the door can be hidden in plain sight,” Meng says. “So, for example, the one by the BeltLine by the Old Fourth Ward Skatepark, you could easily walk by it and not see it; it’s surrounded by a bunch of graffiti. We think about the characteristics of the neighborhood and then we get to making the door.”

tiny doors inman park (640x640)
The Tiny Door outside of Inman Park Pet Works. (Courtesy photo)

Tiny Guardians help bring the doors to life

Meng and Anderson create the doors but they also have a “Tiny Volunteer Committee” who help with the website, grant writing and more. And the co-directors can’t forget who they call their “Tiny Guardians.”

“I would count Tiny Guardians as any random people who stop by the door and leave trinkets,” Meng says.

Tiny Guardians have left money, action figures, a miniature to-go box from The Flying Biscuit, and snowmen and Christmas trees during the holidays. And a tiny reporter named Scoop Callahan has popped up with a Facebook and Instagram page, calling himself a beat reporter for The Tiny Atlanta Journal Constitution and leaving Tiny AJCs by the doors.

There are no plans to take any of the doors down anytime soon, and Meng reveals that the location for door number seven has been chosen and that sheand Anderson will slowly reveal clues on social media in the coming weeks. There’s even a Tiny Doors ATL art gallery event planned for August 22 at Ponce City Market, where Atlanta artists will showcase their tiny art and split the proceeds from any sales with Tiny Doors ATL.

“Atlanta has a really vibrant arts community and Atlantans are fans of art and are people who like to get out and explore the city,” Meng says. “I think that’s why the project has been so embraced because it encourages people to get out and walk around and be in their city.”

Tiny Doors ATL

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders