"What happens when customers ask us questions about it?" asks Terra McVoy, a local YA author and one of several employees who has stayed past the bookstore's closing time so Anderson and Meng can do their thing. "What do you want us to say? Or not say?"
"Ask them, 'Who do you think lives behind that door?'" she suggests. "The point is, we want people to use their imagination."
Imagine this: It was only last May that Anderson, 32, and Meng, 31, first met at a Tae Kwan Do tournament where each was cheering someone else on. They initially bonded over crafting — Meng, a mental health counselor by profession, was embroidering — then decided to collaborate on an idea Anderson had.
"People are getting excited about art, especially public art, in Atlanta," said Anderson, a Michigan native with a degree in visual arts from Rutgers University. That's especially true of large scale public art, thanks to initiatives like the Living Walls mural project and Art on the Beltline. Now, the budding co-op decided, it was time to "bring big wonder to tiny spaces."
That's how they hit on doors. Tiny doors.
“The door is an accessible symbol to a broad audience,” says Meng. “The size of the door enables us to … invite them into curiosity and wonder.”
The doors appear as if by magic overnight. An unnamed cadre of Tiny Door Guardians help keep the doors tidy after installation and a group of Tiny Friends assist with the project’s web presence and other logistics. Why the subterfuge? No one wants the cooperative to become more visible than the doors themselves.
The first couple of doors showed up in places without permission, but those rogue days are largely a thing of the past.
Increasingly, Tiny Doors ATL isn't the one doing the asking. Little Shop of Stories requested a door, and the artists responded by putting their first tiny door inside a location. Trees Atlanta saw the growing buzz on social media and decided it wanted in.
"We kind of cold-called them," said Eli Dickerson, event and donor relations coordinator for the nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and improving Atlanta's urban forest. "We said, 'Hey, maybe there's an opportunity to partner up and get people excited about art and trees.'"
This week, just in time for Georgia Arbor Day on Friday, a tiny door will be installed in the thick protective bark of a tree in a “highly trafficked, publicly accessible place,” said Dickerson, who won’t — or can’t — reveal much more than that.
“Part of what Tiny Doors ATL is about is not giving specific locations because they want people to explore public spaces,” said Dickerson. “We obviously promote getting outside and exploring green spaces, too.”
The cooperative has identified sites for 10 new doors this year, and each one is designed to reflect its environment.
Outside Inman Park Pet Works, the tiny door installed a few days before Christmas sports an even tinier pet door from which a furry rear end protrudes. Like the store’s bulletin board, where pet owners post notices about lost or found dogs and kitties, the tiny door has its own tiny little bulletin board.
“I always love it when I look out the window and I see people walking by at first,” said store owner Laura Saunders. “They turn around and look back, like, ‘Am I crazy or is that a little door?’”
Not everyone is content with merely looking at the tiny doors, though. Soon after the pet store installation, tiny posters and fliers promoting a dogwalker and Snoop Dog mysteriously appeared on the bulletin board. Someone hung a little Christmas wreath on the door. A pint-sized package addressed to “Tinytown” was “delivered” to the porch. Around Halloween, tiny jack-o-lanterns appeared at the Krog Tunnel door.
Tiny Doors ATL doesn’t know who’s responsible for any of it. Maybe it’s only right it’s a mystery, too.
"We were ecstatic to see evidence of people not only noticing the door, but also showing a sense of guardianship by decorating the porch and tending to the ground as though it were their own," says Anderson."More often than not, items outside the doors disappear as quickly and mysteriously as they appear without our hand in it at all."