Lonely Planet Writer

Check out these 'tinyfellas' miniature art installations in Washington, DC

Washington, DC is well known for its prominent art offerings, from expansive museums to grand memorials and sculptures scattered all over the city. To see the Capital’s latest art exhibitions, however, may require more careful searching. The brainchild of Jason Campos and Becky Nissel, tinyfellas is a micro-installation series where miniature figurines are meticulously staged in locales around DC.

The girls are OUT. Meridian Hill Park drum circle, southwest top ledge. #tinyfellas #giveitallyougot

A photo posted by tinyfellas (@tinyfellas) on Nov 13, 2016 at 1:48pm PST

The idea stemmed from a random Amazon purchase. “I stumbled across what I considered to be some really odd and incredibly small figures apparently used to populate the scenes of elaborate model train sets,” Campos tells Lonely Planet. “One afternoon I set up beekeeper [figurines] on a section of trail near my home where I was constantly dodging bees. Then, I just left them. It was fun imagining someone stumbling across them, confused about how or why they were there.”

Campos shared his idea with Nissel, who has a background in painting and writing, and they embarked on their first collaborative installation: a painter sitting before an easel, situated in a quiet parking lot with a beautiful view of the city. Nissel painted a tiny watercolour of the scene to accompany the tiny artist. “It is still, by far, my favorite installation we’ve done,” says Campos. Since then, the duo have installed a host of others, attempting to match scenes with locations that make sense, weaving in some whimsical commentary along the way. There’s a man self-consciously checking the fit of his pants set up across the street from a gym after Thanksgiving and a woman flashing two nuns in a park, among others.

Each installation is photographed and shared on the tinyfellas Instagram account, the geotag encouraging viewers to track down the scene. From the beginning, Nissel imagined the project encouraging people to explore DC and visit cool places they may have never been. The pair have happily witnessed some of these discoveries firsthand. “When we posted our second installation ever in front of the Lincoln Memorial, we sat about 50 feet away on a bench and observed a few really cool things happen,” recounts Nissel. “We saw a young couple discover it. They then took photos, looked on their phones, and pointed east, excitedly. We realised they had seen our tag, checked our Instagram, and discovered that our previous post was just on the other side of the reflecting pool at the WWII Memorial. That’s what they were pointing to, and that was really something to witness.”

While the figurines are hand painted in Germany and meant for model train scenes, the tinyfellas creators have another vision. “We think they could lead better lives out in the real world, which is what we’re having fun accomplishing with this project,” says Nissel. DC residents and visitors can keep their eyes peeled for more micro-installations to come this year.

Figurine from the tinyfellas exhibtion in Washington, DC.
Figurine from the tinyfellas exhibition in Washington, DC. Image by Jason Campos