Off the Clock: Stacey Schwartz added a Free Little Art Gallery to her community


Life is much more than time spent on the clock. In this series, we highlight the unique hobbies and volunteer activities of Mason's talented faculty and staff.

Stacey Schwartz stands next to her Free Little Art Gallery
Stacey Schwartz opened a Free Little Art Gallery in her community for her capstone project in the Arts Management Program. Photo provided

Stacey Schwartz works as a digital strategist for the Center for the Arts and the Hylton Performing Arts Center at George Mason University. A Mason alum, Schwartz, MA Arts Management ’23, brought her capstone research project to life when she opened a Free Little Art Gallery (FLAG) in her community.

FLAGs are similar to free little libraries. They contain free pieces of miniature art, submitted by artists and meant to be exchanged.

The Free Little Art Gallery is situated in a neighborhood and surrounded by beautiful flowers
The Free Little Art Gallery is similar to a Free Little Library. Photo provided

While completing her master’s in arts management, Schwartz read an article about a Free Little Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington. She noticed that early in the pandemic, these galleries served as community builders for both local residents and those following the galleries online. She decided to start one in her Arlington, Virginia, neighborhood.

“The Arts Management Program is the reason that I started my Free Little Art Gallery, which has connected me to artists locally, nationally, and internationally,” said Schwartz. “My arts management background helped me understand how to use this tool successfully to build and strengthen my community.”

When starting the gallery, Schwartz reached out to artists and invited them to drop off their work. When artists provide new pieces, Stacey uploads photos of the work to the gallery’s Instagram. Visitors are free to stop by the gallery and take the art home, whether or not they have something to add to the gallery.

Schwartz encourages artists who leave art in the gallery to include their Instagram handle or other contact information with the piece, so they can be recognized for their contributions. Artists all over the United States have mailed pieces to her for inclusion in the gallery, and she recently received her first international piece from an artist and FLAG founder in Australia.

Recently, Schwartz worked with a local community member to install a geocache, expanding the gallery's reach. In geocaching, participants use their GPS to find hidden containers, called geocaches—which, in this case, leads them to the art gallery.

A miniature piece of artwork, a painting of a fish
Visitors are free to stop by the gallery and take the art home, whether or not they have something to add to the gallery. Photo provided

Schwartz has worked with arts organizations throughout her career, including Washington Performing Arts, Arlington Arts, and WETA. In her current role as digital strategist for Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, she combines her interests in the arts and technology. Schwartz is also the board chair for the Educational Theater Company in Arlington.

The decision to study arts management was an easy one for Schwartz. “I have focused on digital platforms and the arts throughout my career, and I was ready to see the bigger picture,” she said. “Many of my colleagues had gone through the program here at Mason and were so enthusiastic that it seemed like the perfect next step, and it was.”

Schwartz is planning to offer a summer internship with her FLAG.

Follow Schwartz’s Free Little Art Gallery on Instagram @freelittleartgallery_arlington.

Hear Schwartz talk more about Mason, her career, and the Free Little Art Gallery on the Embracing Arlington Arts podcast.