Going postal

Think Postcard is a mail-art party, and everyone’s invited

Indigo Moor is looking for perfection. Having cleared a spot on a table covered with stacks of blank postcards, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, wrapping paper, ribbon, watercolor paints and rubber stamps, he’s poring over the pages of a magazine looking for the word “perfection.” It’s the last thing he needs to complete the postcard collage at his elbow. “Car ads,” he mutters to himself. “That’s where I can find the word perfection, if I look hard enough.”

Elsewhere inside HQ on this rainy Monday evening, members of the Sacramento Poetry Center are writing odes to cows, cutting shapes from paisley-printed paper and fretting about whether glued-on glitter will survive a trip through the post office.

A woman walks in the door and seems surprised to find a debate on the merits of hairspray as a glitter-affixing agent, rather than a performance by a local poet. “What are you doing?” she asks.

Moor, the evening’s facilitator, explains that this is a workshop for Think Postcard, a community-wide postal art project created by Sacramento’s poet laureate, Julia Connor, and supported by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (SMAC). For the next three months, local poets and artists will host free Think Postcard workshops at more than 30 locations. Absolutely everyone is invited to these events, to collaborate on postcard art and mail it to SMAC for an exhibition in the fall.

The woman eyes the cluttered table with careful interest. “Is there a theme?” she asks.

“It’s ‘do whatever you want,’” Moor replies. “People have been all over the map, all over the globe, in what they’ve been turning in.”

The woman’s eyes light up. “Can I make a collage?”

Moor assures her she can, and within seconds she’s seated at the table sorting through swatches of patterned paper.

Connor would be proud. Though a snowstorm-delayed train has kept her from attending this particular workshop, this kind of unguarded participation is just what she had in mind when she created the project as part of her tenure as poet laureate.

“I wanted something that would allow everybody’s voice to come through,” Connor explained during a phone interview. “It seemed to me that the postcard was a medium that would allow that. Most people can find their way to a first-class stamp even when times are tough.”

With an initial printing of 1,500 blank postcards and a growing schedule of workshops facilitated by local poets and artists, the project is in a unique position to attract the city’s most noted creators while also reaching beyond them to gather the previously untapped expressions of Sacramento residents. Workshops have been scheduled at the usual artistic suspects: the Crocker Art Museum, La Raza Galeria Posada, the Center for Contemporary Art, HQ and Luna’s Cafe—which hosted the project’s kickoff party on March 30. However, Think Postcard events also are planned for elementary schools, the Short Centers, the Hart Senior Center, Sutter Medical Center, churches and universities. The list of locations continues to grow as artists contact SMAC to participate. Just last week, workshops were added in Winters and Isleton.

“My hope is that it acts as a healing device within the community,” Connor explained. “When you meet people you don’t know, and you spend an hour with them either creating or finding text, or having someone respond to your images by creating text, you meet them on a level that’s unguarded. And surprise delight can happen.”

Poetry Unplugged host Frank Andrick, who co-facilitated the kickoff party with poet Alan Satow and visual artist Armando Cid, had just such an experience. “I e-mailed Armando some poems at his request,” Andrick said, “and the next day he showed up with beautiful artwork.” The two had never met before being chosen by SMAC to co-host the inaugural event. “We knew of each other, but now we have a profound respect and insight into each other’s work,” he added.

Surprise delight notwithstanding, Think Postcard has a few loosely held rules: Postcards should be a collaboration of at least two people, should include some visual elements and some text, and should be mailed to SMAC to allow for the “third collaborator”—the post office—to make its mark. However, the project’s simple premise—show up, make art and have fun—is its biggest draw. As Andrick said during the Luna’s workshop, where busy postcard participants filled every table, “it’s like kindergarten, only with no adults to get in the way!”

It seems most people’s artistic inhibitions are no match for a table cluttered with free art supplies and the sight of others busily pasting and scribbling. “I was hoping people would have fun doing this,” Connor said. “They would kind of get off on the sense that there’s no ownership here. You put it in the mailbox, and who knows where it ends up? The tendency to be over-identified with your work, over-involved in the product and other people’s reactions to the product, would be broken down.”

Perhaps it is this erosion of attachment that inspires Moor to abandon his search for perfection at the HQ workshop. When he finally holds up his finished card for the approval of his fellow artists, he says, “I chose ‘power’ instead.”

Where the cards are
All are welcome to participate in these free Think Postcard workshops. Art supplies are provided, but participants are encouraged to bring found objects to personalize their work. The events continue through June, and more are being added; check www.sacculture.com for a complete schedule. You need not attend a workshop to participate. To obtain blank postcards or inquire about hosting a workshop, call (916) 566-3986.

5 p.m. Thursday, April 27
Luna’s Cafe
1414 16th Street

3 p.m. Saturday, May 6
Center for Contemporary Art
1519 19th Street

10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13
Crocker Art Museum
216 O Street

10 a.m. Saturday, May 13
Winters Branch Library
201 First Street in Winters

6 p.m. Monday, May 15
It’s a Grind Coffee House
2731 Del Paso Road

9:30 a.m. Monday, May 22
Hart Senior Center
915 27th Street
All seniors welcome.