Mail Your Art 2000

An international mail art show for children

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The following Mail Art Show is now closed. However, the information presented may be helpful if you would like to organize your own show.Amy's postcard example

Kidscommons, an American children's museum and ARTColumbus, a group of visual artists, are sponsoring a children's mail art show in celebration of the new millennium and the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. Collaborating with Guido Vermeulen, a Belgian mail artist, we hope to provide children the opportunity to express ideas about the future through the universal language of the visual arts.

As we learned earlier, mail art was popularized in the '60s by Ray Johnson of the New York Correspondence School, and many contemporary artists use the art form to express themselves. It's easy to participate in a mail art show, and there are no juries or fees to pay in order to enter. Also there are no limitations placed on the materials and techniques an artist can use. He or she simply illustrates the announced theme and mails the work.

Earth Day 2000 is a worldwide celebration which will commemorate the 30th anniversary of this special day set aside to honor Mother Earth. While Earth Day will take place in just a 24-hour period, there will be thousands of observances and programs held in the weeks and months leading up to it. We'll tie our mail art show into Earth Day 2000 by encouraging children to reuse materials when making their entries. Reuse helps save the energy and natural resources necessary to make new art materials, and it saves the landfill space needed to dispose of solid waste.

You Will Need:

Materials will vary, depending on the technique you choose. You may create the art with any technique, and all media are acceptable, including collage, markers, crayons, pen and ink, colored pencils, rubber stamps, tempera, and watercolor.

How to:

Children's Mail Art Show Call for Entry

Eligibility: Children through 12 years of age

Theme: "Living in the Mirror"

Size and background: Create the mail art on a 4"x6" post card. A card of this size is the largest that can be mailed in the United States without having to add extra postage. The art does not have to be done on an "official" post card, just something of similar weight. Try to reuse a light weight piece of card stock for your entry. If you prefer, mail a larger drawing in an envelope.

Show Rules: No fees, no jury, and no returns. All work will be exhibited. Print your first and last names, age, street address, city, state, zip code and country somewhere on your entry. Include your province, if applicable. Teachers, scout leaders, and other care givers can mail many entries together, thereby saving mailing costs.

Exhibit: All work will be shown at the children's museum. At the end of the show, we'll reuse old suitcases and hat boxes to hold the cards and letters as they tour the Bartholomew County elementary schools. Children will have the opportunity to handle them, and to see the art and study the stamps and post marks.

Documentation will be provided to all children who enter. The form which the recognition takes will depend on the number of entries the museum receives. If possible, a list of children's names and countries will be mailed to each child or to the care giver who enters on behalf of his or her group. Otherwise, all names, first name and last initial only, will be listed in a virtual catalog of entries at the kidscommons Web site.

It's necessary that we collect children's names and addresses in order to mail the documents, but the information will not be shared with any other organization or business. If you wish to receive documentation and you are concerned about your child's privacy, list a workplace address instead of the home address.

Important Dates: List your deadline here.

Send Mail Art to: List the address of your school or organization.

Theme Suggestions

You will spend most of your life in the 21st Century, so the "Living in the Mirror" theme will allow you to really use your imagination!

Environmentally-friendly Ways to Make Mail Art

Cut interesting objects from old magazine photos, and glue onto paper. Add captions using magazine letters to spell your message. See What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation? and Secret Valentine for more information on collage.

Reuse junk mail return envelopes by using stickers or seals over logos, emblems, and addresses. Decorate the rest of the envelope with colored pencils, markers, collage, rubber stamps, or pen and ink. Illustrate the "Living in the Mirror" theme on paper, and enclose it in the envelope. Just be sure to place a stamp on your entry. This kind of envelope usually notes that no postage is necessary, if mailed in the United States. That's because the company or organization which sent the mail in the first place pays the postage on reply envelopes.

envelope samplesCollect preconsumer waste paper from printing companies, or use the clean side of scrap paper to make the art. You can obtain free envelopes from discount stores and gift shops after certain holidays. The employees who restock card racks return unsold cards to the manufacturer for credit, but they are not required to send back the matching envelopes. Help conserve landfill space and natural resources by asking them to save envelopes for you. Look for green envelopes after St. Patrick's Day, pastel colors after Easter and Mother's Day, orange and yellow after Halloween and Thanksgiving, and red after Christmas and Valentine's Day.

Carefully take apart a commercially made envelope. Open it up, and trace the shape onto a scrap of postconsumer waste paper such as a magazine page, decorative sack, gift wrap, color newspaper comic, or a page from a wallpaper sample book. Cut it out, and fold and glue it like the original envelope. Write the address on an adhesive label, and seal it with a glue stick before mailing. Please note: wallpaper envelopes may require extra postage.

Jack's postcard sampleCut a rectangle measuring no more than 4"x6" from a scrap of .25" foam board, a material used by frame shops and architectural firms. Draw or paint your picture on one side, and address the card on the other. Because of its thickness, this card requires extra postage.

Create mail art with rubber stamps, or cut an old inner tube into shapes and glue them to a wooden block. Roll printing ink over the stamp, and make impressions on paper.

Using a ball point pen, draw a picture on a small block of polystyrene, and roll printing ink over the block. Transfer the design to paper. See Make a Print, Make a Print, Make a Print! for complete directions.

When an artist uses more than one medium or art material to create something, we say he or she is working in mixed media. Combine two or more media, such as markers and colored pencils, to illustrate the theme.

Make your art on recycled paper or kenaf, a tree-free writing material. See Draw on Kenaf for more details about this environmentally-friendly paper.

Tips and Tricks:

"Living in the Mirror" artwork was created by my students. Thanks, Amy, Claire, Jack, Maria, and Mary Claire!

Some of the mail art received was sent to Boorai: The Children’s Art Gallery which is affiliated with the University of Melbourne in Australia. Click here to read about the exchange and to see photos of the Australian children. 

© 1999 Marilyn J. Brackney (updated 2018)

Volume 14 No. 3

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