Miniature masterpieces: New public art in West Palm Beach

Posted at 6:31 PM, Mar 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-10 18:36:06-05

Twenty-two new doorways have been erected in West Palm Beach, but you may not have noticed them.  They're too small for any human to use.

A group of artists, led by Nicki Hennevelt, has been creating Tiny Doors and, with permission, placing them around town.  The effort has taken on a life of its own.

In Hennevelt's basement, one of the only basements in West Palm Beach, a group of artists sits hunched over their work. Their hands barely move as they carefully construct and decorate in minute scale.

"I'm making little tiny cakes right now, which are really kind of fun, and very tedious," Hennevelt says.

She has used a toothpick point to gently press into the pink cake batter between the layers of white icing.  She slowly twists it in her fingers.  The cake circumference is no larger than a bottle cap.

The initial idea was to echo the efforts of other cities around the world.  Hennevelt believed the artistry of creation and the wonder of exploration could meet in a way that would draw eyes away from cell phones and into the details of her city.

Hennevelt says the pint-sized charge has taken on a life of its own in ways she never anticipated.

"When we first started it, we didn't know.  A door's a door. How many different doors can we get."

As dozens of local artists signed up to help with the effort, myriad visions took shape.  On the stoop of one somewhat traditional door, a small sits.  Another features an elaborate octopus with tentacles extended over the frame.

The little doors can easily be missed, even when deliberately looking.  They are tucked into corners, shadowed in edges and hidden around the sides of planter boxes.

One sits in the window of the boutique Danielle Emon, owned by Danielle Williams.

"People come specifically looking for that door. And of course it's a boutique, there's shiny jewelry and fun clothes so they're able to come in and shop as well. So it's been a benefit tremendously," Williams said.

Hennevelt has organized treasure hunts using hashtags on social media and organized events like the Northwood Art Walk.  Visitors have been enthusiastic, and even moreso since Hennevelt gathered prizes ranging from pencils to tickets to a cruise. She even positions a tiny mayor for a tiny ribbon-cutting ceremony when a new doorway is unveiled.

Twenty-two tiny doors now freckle the West Palm Beach area, many in the Northwood Village neighborhood.  If a business wants a tiny door near their regular-sized entrance, Hennevelt has several completed creations on standby she can tote in a suitcase so they can select the best fit.

The doors themselves have started to evolve in appearance.  The first door now bears a color flesh with the wall on which its affixed, as a painter chose to swipe their brush across the door while updating the building.  An explorer glued tiny bottles to several doors to add to the facade.  Hennevelt likes the changes, because it means the doors are becoming more a part of the community in which they live. Several neighboring communities have now expressed interest in receiving her tiny doors.

"It's a treasure hunt waiting to happen," she said.


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