In a city where large-scale murals cover the walls, anyone interested in public art should not forget to look down. Tiny Doors ATL, a series of miniature public art installations that debuted in July 2014, aims to foster a sense of wonder and community.
In the male-centric world of street art, Karen Anderson Singer, the artist behind the project, says it’s time for women to change the narrative. “Female artists have always had the struggle of being written out of our own story.”
Singer moved to Atlanta six years ago and has since handcrafted 16 doors citywide, each capturing the spirit of the neighborhood in which they’re placed. Tiny Doors ATL turns five this month and does so with a series of birthday celebrations. (For a comprehensive map of all 16 Tiny Doors ATL projects, go HERE. To commission Tiny Doors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For details on birthday events, see its Facebook page.)
ARTS ATL contributor Lauren Leathers recently caught up with Singer to talk about upcoming projects and the importance of public art.
ARTS ATL: How did you become involved in art and Atlanta?
Karen Anderson Singer: I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I’ve been an artist my entire life. I grew up making miniatures for my dollhouses. Then I was in a punk band. I developed this interest in street art and community engagement through art while we were on the road. I left the band to go to art school at Rutgers in New Jersey. I volunteered to teach bass at Girls Rock Camp in Atlanta and, after coming to visit, I decided to move after I graduated. I was drawn to Atlanta because it’s a big city with a small-town attitude. There is an openness and friendliness that really made me feel at home.
ARTS ATL: What themes are most prevalent in your work?
Singer: In Ann Arbor, there are fairy doors. I liked that it was miniature, street art and bringing people outside, but I was thinking of some way to make it something that was for everyone. So that was the leap that I took to Tiny Doors ATL. These doors are here to engage your imagination. When putting in new doors — which are only put in when invited — I think about how I can create the best blank canvas for your imagination.
ARTS ATL: You’ve been creating tiny doors for six years now. How have things changed?
Singer: When the project first started, I had no intention and no idea that it would become a movement. I started it to join the conversation of artists in Atlanta because I have such a respect for the street art here. I wanted to have a small voice in that conversation. I started with one door and have slowly grown based on listening to what people like, don’t like or what they are interested in rather than making firm decisions and sticking with it. It’s about what matters to Atlanta and showcasing our best selves.
ARTS ATL: Why is public art important?
Singer: Atlanta understands the value of public art because it keeps us connected to one another. It can be an identifier for neighborhoods or key locations. It also helps us feel like we are somewhere that is living, breathing and growing. When you see a big building going up, it can feel like a barrier between you and the sky. But when you see art go up, it can feel like a way that your city is reflecting humanity.
ARTS ATL: What challenges do you see female artists facing?
Singer: Female artists have always had the struggle of being written out of our own story. It’s a problem I see in several museums where they showcase the works of men for entire genres and leave women out of the story. I think social media is a way that we’ve been able to make our voices undeniable. People are often surprised when they meet me and find that the artist behind Tiny Doors ATL is a woman, but I understand that people are used to street artists being men. I think changing that narrative is important. As often as I can, I incorporate women and femme individuals into projects. In this city, there is room for all of us.
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ARTS ATL’s street art column appears every other Thursday and is done largely in collaboration with Art Rudick and his Atlanta Street Art Map. We’d love to hear suggestions from you too. See something we should know about? Have an opinion? Please email email@example.com.