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October 17, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Tucked among the cracked brick walls and wedged within the dank crevices of downtown are several tiny treasures small enough to fit inside a doll house.
These miniature replicas of real-life items — a clothesline with white and blue garments, a red gum ball machine barely 2 inches high — are part of local artist Maggie Tripp’s collection of art installations she hides around downtown Columbia.
When the city began upgrading the alleys two years ago, Tripp found her own way to add small surprises to the pathways. Think Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, but even tinier. Most of her handcrafted trinkets are sneakily placed in the alley behind Broadway Brewery, around Ragtag Cinema and at Mojo’s.
“(People) almost feel like they’re the first person to see it, and that’s great because their reaction is their own,” Tripp says. “I hope at least that they see it and on some level really appreciate it.”
Reid Lyle, general manager of Acme Hot and Fresh T-Shirts Made to Order located at 15 Ninth St., passes by the alley pieces every day. He grew fond of a light-green door that opened up to a picture of a living room. “The more I pass by, the more I start seeing them,” Lyle says. “And then I start interacting with them eventually. I kept opening that little door.”
Tripp crafts the figures from purchased and found items such as bottle caps, cardboard and corks. She used a yellow house from Hobby Lobby and tiny stick balloons from a birthday cake to create an Up-inspired tableau. The candy-colored scene was hidden above eye-level behind Broadway Brewery, where it stood out from its perch on a gray electrical box. It went missing last week.
Currently, there are eight pieces, but the number changes when damaging weather, vandalism or theft come into play. Tripp tries not to take the destruction personally because part of what appeals to her is that it’s “ephemeral and temporary, and it’s not here to last.”
Jonny Pez, who works at PS:Gallery and Ragtag Cinema, says Tripp’s pieces remind him of artist Joseph Cornell, who is known for his tiny boxes filled with found objects. For Ragtag Cinema’s birthday this past June, Tripp made a birthday cake out of a cork, decorated with a single candle and two miniature film reel frames and installed it inside the building. “You can see it from the box office where I work,” Pez says. “I don’t know how many people have noticed it before, but it’s just like one of those little Easter eggs.”