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You Can Open Minds With Public Art! Yes, YOU! I mean YOU!

An abandoned building on one of the main streets I frequent drove me crazy. The owners boarded up the windows with cheap plywood, and for weeks, then months, I walked past every day noting the latest graffiti. Most of the time it was something negative, gross, hurtful. The owners would paint over the black spray, and the chase began again. One day the owners removed the plywood and replaced it with thicker plywood. I wasn't sure why, exactly.

That same night I was cleaning out my garage and came across a couple of rolls of velcro and a huge roll of clear contact paper. I had an idea! I spent the entire night writing words and phrases - some plain, some New Mexican, some dirty, some colorful - on thick cardstock. I cut the words into individual rectangles and laminated them with the contact paper, adding a swatch of velcro on the back of each piece.

At 3 am, when the town still slept, I walked to the forgotten building and stapled velcro lines to the plywood windows. I screwed an old plastic gardening bucket to the side of one of the windows and filled it with my letters. I added a sign:

S.O.S. We are scared of the silence and are speaking out!

I invited folks to play with the words, to create a poem, to leave a message for the town. And you know what? Magic happened! My underground poetry boards became a huge hit! The teenagers were the biggest players - they didn't deface them! They wrote poetry - as dirty as they could, mind you - but it was real, awesome, thoughtful poetry!

No one ever found out that I created the underground poetry boards! After many months, the velcro began to curl from the relentless desert sun, and the words faded. One day I walked past and everything was gone, a fresh coat of paint covering the boarded windows. I smiled. It was time.

Here are some photos. What can YOU do, in secret, without anyone knowing it was YOU, in YOUR town? How can you open a mind to the idea of creating art?



by flagamuffin 836 days ago   ·   link

This is beautiful. Seriously, beautiful. Public art is one of the most underappreciated possibilities of urban (or semi-urban) life.

In my hometown of Austin, murals, drawn poems, memorials, even often-pretty gang graffiti ... all are part of the public consciousness, the persona of my amazing city. But your little board is interactive and that makes it all the cooler. A much more real way of influencing your community.

by littlebirdie 836 days ago   ·   link

I have to say that it feels funny telling the story! I kept it a secret, which made it all the more cool and fun and beautiful. I saw old ladies making poetry! Kids! Mothers with babies in strollers. I saw an old, decaying alcoholic struggle to put words together. It was all incredible.

by flagamuffin 836 days ago   ·   link

Have you considered writing a book? About anything? I've only seen two of your posts, I think, but both were among my favorite from this site.

Would badge if I could.

by littlebirdie 836 days ago   ·   link

http://www.amazon.com/My-Tiny-Vegas-Stories-ebook/dp/B002UKO...

:)

It's just a small and tiny book, a collection of stories about Northeastern New Mexico.

by flagamuffin 836 days ago   ·   link

No, no, this is exactly what I was imagining. Awesome.

by littlebirdie 836 days ago   ·   link

I think 35 copies have sold since it was published a few years ago, ha ha. Not exactly best-seller material! It's all real-life stories about living in rural NM - all of the glorious food, Spanish and NA culture, the weirdness, the beauty, the ongoing drought.

by flagamuffin 835 days ago   ·   link

It looked to me from the Amazon link that I could only buy an ecopy? I considered buying it last night, haha.

by littlebirdie 835 days ago   ·   link

There's a paperback as well. I'm sending you a little note over the PM thingie, I have an extra copy and would love to send it to you! Signed! With a personalized poem and Hubski-centric message inside the cover!

by BLOB_CASTLE 835 days ago   ·   link

The world needs more people like you.

by thenewgreen 836 days ago   ·   link

This rules, nice work littlebirdie. You ever see the TED Talk about the woman that turned an abounded house in to a giant chalk board where people can write the things they want to do before they die? Check it out.

As for what I've done in secret? Not much really. I'll build little rock formations by the river when I'm there with my family, but I've done nothing beyond that in secret.

I created this with bgood79 without ever seeking acknowledgment. -I think Rae Dawn Chong owes us :-)

Seriously though, I love that you did this.

by littlebirdie 836 days ago   ·   link

So funny, and I wonder where she got her idea. I did this in 2008, so it was a few years ago. I've done other public art secret projects since, and I will post about them in this thread. I have one project that is really funny, I can't wait to share it!

I am listening to your song now, and I love it. It's making me smile and laugh. We humans are at our best when we just let loose and pour out onto the planet.

by thenewgreen 836 days ago   ·   link

I'm looking forward to hearing about the others. It's really cool that you do these things.

by littlebirdie 836 days ago   ·   link

I'm sorting through photos, looking for my funny postcard project. I'm still doing that one, actually, it's kind of a mashup of Post Secret and Post Crossing. I will post when I get back from work later today. Oh! And I have the Chair Project, which is really weird and cool, too. I am not a visual artist, per se, but I love to see people's reactions to unexpected things, things they can create and love and share.

by b_b 836 days ago   ·   link

Candy Change. Linked above.

by thenewgreen 836 days ago   ·   link

Ah, nice. When watching that I was reminded of the bucket list conversation we had here. I just was reading through it. You ever do that Scotland trip? I'm planning on going there in March and could use some pointers.

by b_b 823 days ago   ·   link

Well, nice turn of events. I'm going on a Scotch tasting tour after all this May. I guess you get to give me some pointers!

by thenewgreen 823 days ago   ·   link

Turns out the trip is May 10th. Is your tasting in Scotland?

by b_b 823 days ago   ·   link

4th to 12th-ish Haven't bought the ticket yet, but those are most likely. Hubski meetup in the Highlands? Aye.

by thenewgreen 823 days ago   ·   link

How fucking cool would that be? I'll ask the wife tonight the exact dates. We'll be in Edinburgh but I'll make a road trip for a Hubski gathering.

by b_b 823 days ago   ·   link
by thenewgreen 822 days ago   ·   link

First comment I've saved.

by b_b 836 days ago   ·   link

Not yet. Its a few year plan kind of thing. Hopefully summer of '14, cause it sure as hell isn't going to be '13 like I speculated in that post :/

by littlebirdie 836 days ago   ·   link

Oh my gosh, I have to post my bucket list on that thread. I have to think of what's on it now; a lot has changed over the past year, and I think my idea of what would be Important has been refined or shifted or something.

by b_b 836 days ago   ·   link

Awesome stuff, littlebirdie. Have you ever seen Candy Chang's work? You guys are kindred spirits.

by littlebirdie 836 days ago   ·   link

OH MY GOSH!!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for posting her link! WOW!!! Same spirit and thought, how cool is that?! I look forward to reading her site.

by Zed 830 days ago   ·   link

This is the most amazing fix to graffiti i have ever seen. Boards like this could be used by towns and graffiti prevention committees to cut down on crime and other related things in their community!

by khaaan 836 days ago   ·   link

its not art its just something to do

by Tumbledown 834 days ago   ·   link

As small of a gesture as it is, this project brought people together within a community to share their momentary thoughts. "Art" doesn't need to be enigmatic, profound, or anything like that.

Art evokes experience, impulse, thought, and/or a myriad of other sensations, and this project fulfilled quite a few of those.

by littlebirdie 835 days ago   ·   link

Hi khaaan - I think that poetry is art, even bad poetry, or thoughtless poetry, or poetry that a person does in a moment on a not-quite-busy rural street. But I'm going by my own internal definition, so I'm probably wrong.

What do you feel is the definition of art? This would make a great discussion and I very much look forward to your thoughts.



littlebirdie's previous #poetry posts: