On January 1, 2012, with the help of a friend, I put up two public art installations in Seattle.
Using stencils and Sharpie paint markers, we put a few lines of a Mary Oliver poem on two doors that I had purchased at a reuse store in Ballard. We decided upon the now signature '&go' to accompany each installation. The artist's stamp, if you will.
We put the doors up in the early morning, first at Volunteer Park and then at Cal Anderson Park. After taking a few photographs of the doors at both locations and after admiring the words attached, we headed to brunch.
Later that night I returned to Capitol Hill with another friend, and en route to dinner, we crossed through Cal Anderson Park. Much to my delight, the door remained where I had placed it against a lamp post. I felt a surge of surreptitious pride. No one knew that I was responsible for co-creating this installation.
Fast forward five years. I've since installed over two hundred boards across Seattle. Some boards have made their way further afield. At least two went up in Portland, Oregon. One near Black Lake in Olympia. There was even one I was able to cobble together in Glasgow, Scotland. In Seattle, boards would go up at Alki Beach, Greenlake, on random street corners, near coffee shops or city benches; anywhere I felt compelled to place one. I can only hope that these boards have provided a source of inspiration to those who have seen them.
I often get asked the following questions, which I've answered in bite-sized nuggets below.
What made you start this project? The most simple answer is a breakup. But I was also just in a really transformative time. Within a month of putting these doors up, I would have my first soul retrieval, move neighborhoods, get a new job that I was incredibly excited about, and co-create the beginnings of what would become a fruitful public poetry performance with six other creatives. There was a lot up for me at the beginning of 2012 and a lot ending. I was ready to make a declarative statement to the universe that I wanted to create and be seen and be doing art.
Where do you get the boards? I have bought cabinet pieces and doors. I have been gifted wood scraps. I don't know how much money I have put into this among the cabinet pieces, paint markers, and gas, but I'd guess at least around $250-300.
Where do you find the quotes? Poets and Authors. Teachers and Friends. Spirit. Inspiration.
Where do they end up? I don't know. I've heard of boards finding their way inside homes or outside in garden spaces. I know Crow Restaurant in Lower Queen Anne had taken one inside. Some have stayed up for weeks on end in parks (I've been able to go back sometimes and check on them). They always end up on my social media accounts. I've also heard of people using the boards as their cover photo on Facebook. After I put a board up in Lowman Beach in March 2013, the West Seattle blog posted about it and it caused a stir in their comments section (so much so that even a local Seattle magazine wrote a blurb about it).
Is this illegal? No one has actually asked me this. I've asked myself this. What I want to say about it though is that I wanted to create something that was not permanent and not destructive to public property. The boards are meant to be ephemeral, three dimensional, and interactive. If a Seattle Park employee finds one and throws it away, okay. If someone takes one and keeps it, well, that's definitely okay too!
More will come, in time. It has been a beautiful and rewarding artistic endeavor and one that I hope brings some good into the world.
Now, I offer you these messages again, a la Mary, of hope and risk. SO DO. Dare to be seen.
Create and Expand. Love and Explore. Be bold and brazen and say yes to you!
If you or anyone you know has had an experience with a board in-person, on-site, would you comment below? I'd love to know about it!