Blink and you might miss it.
Tucked between bricks on a building, behind a picture frame, or perched on an inch-of-space baseboard, a tiny art gallery sits waiting for an observant eye to lean down — and perhaps grab a magnifying glass. McKay Lenker Bayer, creator of Tiny Art Show has dedicated herself to the most inspired — and bite-sized — of passion projects: showcasing the amazing work of talented artists — on a miniature scale.
You name it, McKay’s shrunk it — a tiny pumpkin patch, a university-scale art pop-up, a shop, a food truck, vacation essentials, Disney goodies, books, famous public art installations, newspapers, and much, much more.
Through Tiny Art Show, McKay is not only installing itty-bitty art shows in unexpected places, she’s making the owning and viewing of art more accessible. (Like the Tiny Art Exchange!) Tiny Art Show is one of my favorite accounts to follow — McKay truly embodies how to creatively and courageously pursue your passions — and how to see things from a different perspective. Her unique vision, tireless dedication, and commitment to cultivating creativity is a true inspiration to me.
And now: time to cue the (tiny) confetti! Tiny Art Show just turned one!
On this week’s Talking Shop, McKay chats about her journey to Tiny Art Show, how she puts together a show, and what incites her own sense of wonder. Everyone, meet McKay!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an artist and art teacher living in Provo, UT.
How and when did your passion for art (and design) begin?
In high school. I would get really into a piece of art I was working on, and suddenly three hours had gone by but it felt like thirty minutes. It was then I started to realize that creating was something that gave me true joy.
How did Tiny Art Show get started? What has the journey been like, from the beginning to now?
The first tiny art show I ever created was to fulfill an assignment for an art class in college. Every student had to exhibit their work. I had been making these tiny abstract paintings and was inspired by a mini art installation a friend did. I thought it would be sort of funny to exhibit my pieces very low to the ground with tiny label cards and magnify glasses, out in public. I sat and watched from afar to see if people noticed. Seeing people’s reactions- some would shriek with excitement, even lay down on the sidewalk to look more closely. After that, I had this nagging feeling that I should continue creating more tiny art shows, so last year I finally made it into a project. Each show features a different artist in a unique location. I’ve been so grateful for the positive reception from the community. I definitely didn’t realize it would continue to this point and how busy I would get with it.
I have always loved tiny things, and was raised by my parents to use my imagination to the fullest extent. So I’m very interested in immersive art and community art- projects that give you that feeling of being a child again. I also think tiny is cute of course! It’s also more intimate.
How do you decide what artists to involve in your shows?
I choose based on artists that I think are talented and are contributing something unique to their local art scene. I also try to show a variety of styles and media.
What do you enjoy about creating and sharing art in Utah? What is the art community like there?
I enjoy just about everything. I have loved being able to provide a space where all kinds of people can have a new, un-intimidating experience with art. Our most recent shows have also had art-making stations, where guests can make their own tiny art. It’s been so fun to see people using their creativity, sometimes creativity they didn’t even know they had.
What do you enjoy most about putting together the shows?
To me, every show in and of itself is a work of art. I feel such a sense of accomplishment and pride when I finish hanging a tiny show. Over time I’ve gotten better at curating and hanging the work, which I’m proud of.
What does the process of setting up a show look like? What various elements do you have to organize and implement?
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Scouting and choosing the perfect location, coordinating with the artist, collecting and photographing the artwork, installing the artwork, double-checking the scale, photographing it, then hosting the event, making tiny food, printing and cutting hundreds of tiny booklets, buying supplies and setting up a craft-making station, tracking art sales and selling the art, posting on social media, cleaning up after the event, de-installing the show, and then arranging pick up or shipping the artwork. That’s all just for one show!
Tell us about your collab with the Love Letters Museum.
It was such a blast! It was so amazing to meet with a team of people who basically said, “We can pretty much make your craziest idea for tiny art show a reality!” Having that much freedom was almost crippling at first. But after doing lots of research and planning, I was like, ok let’s create a room in an art museum where someone can climb into a painting and it leads to a miniature version of the room they were just in! I learned SO much creating our room in Love Letters, and I learned so much from the team who created Love Letters.
What is your ultimate vision for Tiny Art Show?
Basically what we are doing now, creating an accessible and fun way for people to view and own original art. I would love to be able to do it full time, and travel all over the world and work with even more artists that I love!
What inspires you?
Any art project that brings the community together or incites this sense of wonder in a person is very inspiring to me. For example, Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, and pretty much every project by Candy Chang.
What advice do you have for those wanting to pursue their own passion projects?
You can achieve whatever you are passionate about if you have a clear, unique vision and are willing to give your 110% best effort consistently. (haha) Also, I should say that I couldn’t do this alone — my husband Tylor makes it possible for our events to run smoothly, and Drea our designer creates the things I can’t!
The Fun Qs:
What are your favorite out-of-office activities?
I love riding my bike, going on adventures with my husband and dog Spud, watching TV and eating snacks.
What is your absolute favorite meal?
Baked mac and cheese.
What are you currently fangirling over?
I was very very invested in Stranger Things this summer.
What book or movie/tv show do you always recommend to friends?
30 Rock is my favorite show. Also Twin Peaks.