Holding Space for Art: Branford’s First Free Little Art Gallery Comes to Town

By Maichina Veri

A creative community idea came to realization on Friday, July 21 at St. Basil Community Homes.

Sharon Gashgarian of ViBrant ARC (Art Reconnecting Community), along with Laurie Macintyre and Tammy Wellman of Jaycee Homes, met at 77 Pearl St. in Brantford for the first-ever Art in the Park celebration, which included the unveiling of Brantford’s very own Free Little Art Gallery (FLAG).

About a year ago, the run-down playground at this community home was converted into a fresh and welcoming park with a picnic area for tenants to enjoy. Named for a founding father of Jaycee Homes, the Art Lefebvre Memorial Park is the dream space for events such as paint nights, movie nights, little theatre and day camps.

Fitting snugly into this dream is the FLAG — a contribution from ViBrant ARC that couldn’t have been made possible without help from Home Depot, Brantford Collegiate Institute and Belonging Brant. Not to forget Susan Walters, a member of the Brantford Station Neighbourhood Association, who brought the agreeable idea forward to Tammy to plant the FLAG at St. Basil.

“We all have our own way of expressing ourselves whether it’s with words or drawings or music or whatever the case may be. … To me, that’s important. That’s how I feel I belong.”

A FLAG is like a Little Free Library, but instead of books, it houses miniature art from community. Folks are welcome to leave their art for display as well as take, use or leave art supplies that are kept in the gallery.

At the celebration, Art in the Park had taken on a dual meaning. Laurie, Tammy and Sharon had set up tables with art supplies in the space dedicated to Art Lefebvre in effort to connect community and fill the FLAG.

Laurie spoke to the importance of the event saying that since the pandemic, people have had to relearn what “community” and “gathering” mean. She went on to say that art is universal and unique at the same time, and that it’s meaningful to share it.

Art Lefebvre memorial plaque.

Art Lefebvre memorial plaque.

Art and community connect, and the FLAG at the memorial park is testament to that. When asked how the two mingle and the importance of it, Sharon offered that, while there is no finite answer, this collaboration emphasizes connection and belonging.

“We all have our own way of expressing ourselves whether it’s with words or drawings or music or whatever the case may be,” Sharon said, “To me, that’s important. That’s how I feel I belong.”

Tammy and Laurie are both excited for the FLAG at St. Basil and said that Jaycee Homes — whose mandate is community service — is happy the FLAG is there as well.

“I know some of our tenants for sure are going to be very excited and checking it every day,” said Tammy, “We have some that will take very good care of it.”

Another FLAG will soon find its home at the Dunn Building on Elgin Street – an office belonging to Community Living Brant. If you’re interested in participating in the FLAG decorating and stocking at the Dunn, please reach out to ViBrant ARC or Belonging Brant for more details.

For more information on FLAGs, you can reach out to ViBrant ARC at vibrantarc@gmail.com and check out the Brantford Expositor article on the FLAG and Art in the Park here.


Lead photo shows Tammy Wellman, Sharon Gashgarian, and Laurie Macintyre with a FLAG.


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