Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Post for the Parks - a response!

So, I received my first response to one of my Post for the Parks pieces yesterday. And it wasn't exactly what I had been expecting.

PftP Returned Package

Mount Rainier National Park sent their painting back to me - business card and all. An interesting development!

PftP Returned Package

Along with the painting was this form letter:

Ftp Returned Package
(If this is too small to read, click here for a bigger version.)

I have to admit, I was a little sad since I don't think that this response matches with the intended nature of the project. BUT this is a good lesson in realizing that people interpret things differently. Who am I to expect anyone to want to keep an unsolicited item?

It hadn't even crossed my mind that a park would have a museum collection or that my little sketch would be seen as wanting a place in that collection. Now I feel like some kind of ego maniac. I actually had imagined that this would end up stuffed in a drawer in "staff offices" but hey, it's neat to have it back!

PftP Returned Package

Receiving this return is making me think more about art and ego and assuming what someone's response to work will be. Because part of this project is about not seeing the pieces as precious and museum-worthy, I feel a little bad (and slightly embarrassed) that the package was opened and my project viewed in such a way. Who am I to assume that another person will accept the burden of caring for this painting (since generally people think paintings should be cared for)? I didn't intend for it to be treasured but how is anyone else supposed to know that?

I would be interested to know what other people think about unsolicited art - art itself being something that as a society is a loaded thing (Is it art? Is it good art? Is it worth something? Is it worth saving? Should it be precious? Should it be garbage?) and how its value might be interpreted in a way you didn't intend.

So now I pack all the pieces back into the very official Department of the Interior manilla envelope and stash it away. It's my responsibility once again.

Oh! My favorite thing about this returned package is that in the bottom right corner of my form letter is a red scribble, the loop-dee-loop kind made when trying to get a pen's ink flowing. I LOVE IT.

So, to make it official:

Mount Rainier National Park Parcel -
posted: January 22nd, 2015
returned: February 17th, 2015 (All items returned except mailer and backing board/cello sleeve painting was shipped with/in.)
received: February 26th, 2015

Thanks for following along!

And P.S. let me just say PARK CURATOR?! I had no idea there was such a thing. What a dream job that must be!


P.P.S. In case you are wondering, below is what MY form letter reads. This letter goes out with each piece...

Hello [whichever] National Park,

Greetings from Boston Massachusetts. I am working on a project that involves making a small painting inspired by each of our National Parks. I am researching each park, creating the paintings, and then mailing the paintings to the parks.

Each week of 2015 I will be mailing out a painting to one national park and also posting the painting online. I am completing the paintings and mailing them in the order in which the parks gained their National Park status. I am using the addresses listed as the official mailing addresses of the parks, some are not located within the actual parks – if you want to forward this on to someone within the borders of the park, please do!

This project is part examination of treasured wilderness protected by our government and part thank you love letter to those who work so tirelessly to preserve special places for the plants and animals that live there as well as human visitors.

No response is required or expected, I am simply sending my art on ahead of me to the parks I haven’t visited yet and back to the parks I have been to.

Sarah Coyne


  1. Oh man! This was definitely not what I expected the first response to be either! Totally disappointing but it's pretty neat how your project is unexpectedly making you (and me!) think about different aspects of your work and artwork in general.

    Are you nervous at all to continue with the project knowing that your submissions might be viewed this way? I kind of hope that the people at Mt Rainier really did understand your intent with this project but still had to send you a kind of formal canned response becauuuuuse government.

    1. I too think/hope they 'got it' but yes, government. And maybe this park in particular is inundated with pieces of art depicting their beautiful mountain and just can't handle it all.

      I don't know if I'd say I'm nervous but I will definitely have more things racing around in my brain as I drop all of the future parcels into the mailbox!

  2. I think your artwork should have been happily accepted, given your letter. That it was returned says more about the park service than it does about you and your your project. Perhaps this piece will stand alone as a unique outcome, or can become part of an exhibit on the ability of the park service to recognize a unique plan and embrace it.
    This doesn't say as much about you or your work, as it does about the inflexibility of the park service to think outside the narrow box they have created.
    Chalk this up to the weird response it is, put it aside, and continue in your way. I am looking forward to seeing each piece in this remarkable series.
    In case you need some encouragement or a hug: XO XO 😊❤️

  3. I'm embarrassed. I live near Seattle and see Mt. Rainier every day (weather permitting). I'm so sorry that the Mt. Rainier Ranger returned your beautifully assembled package. (You could forward it to me! I'd be thrilled to receive it!) But I guess I can understand their position. They have placed a high value on your art and want it to be treated with the respect they feel it deserves. I'll be curious to see if this position is taken by most other parks, or if they have any discretion to decide independently how to handle the package. I still think your project is wonderful and I hope that at least some of the other parks enjoy receiving your artwork (and keep it!)

  4. I get unsolicited art from you all the time and it is one of my greatest lifely delights - Pa