Judging by a broad overview of her resume, Denise D. Price is a fine archetype of the Boston businesswoman. She’s combined her MBA in international business and bootstrap savvy while running a Cambridge-based real estate company called ePlace, leveraging all her abilities while studying and working with her true passion: paper.
While she considers herself a self-taught paper engineer, Price has also trained in the paper arts for years in Boston, including at the famed North Bennet Street School and at MassArt, and earlier this winter she published The Freedom Trail Pop Up Book, the first pop-up celebrating Boston’s rich history.
“Everybody who touches it, especially Bostonians, are almost moved by the fact that it’s something more permanent,” Price says of her book’s appeal. “I think that people are moving back towards paper.”
And that’s where the idea for her new internationally collaborative crowd-sourced project, Art via Post, began. She put out an open call to illustrators, calligraphers, paper artists, graffiti artists, and stencilers, welcoming all to simply use envelopes as canvases and then mail the results to her. Soon, she was receiving envelope art of every stripe from all over the world.
“The things that would show up in the PO box were gifts from people who expected nothing in return. It’s truly humbling,” she says.
The envelopes varied from simple drawings done in marker to a cloth pouch secured with Velcro that unfolded into a quilt when opened and held a single note of encouragement inside. One was even crafted entirely from wood by local timber sculptor John Magnan.
“My letter cannot be opened,” Magnan explained in a note to Price, “but the layers themselves are content, bearing witness to two years in the life of a maple tree that once lived. All the curves and ripples are memories of the tree as it grew. And of course, our familiar envelopes are made of paper, which comes from trees, so we seem to have come full circle.”
The collection, now on exhibit at the Armory in Somerville, speaks to that idea of returning to our roots, of finding comfort and solidity in a manner technology sometimes cannot provide, in the familiar weight of paper.
Price, fascinated with the level of detail in the works she received, asked some of the artists why they poured so much of themselves into work they might in fact never see again.
“They wanted the person receiving the mail to feel special,” she says. “They also did it for the people that handled the mail—for the many people who actually touched a parcel going from, say, Germany to Boston, and who paused at that moment just to take a look at it.”
ART VIA POST. ARTS AT THE ARMORY CAFE 191 HIGHLAND AVE., SOMERVILLE. THROUGH FEB. 28. 8AM-8PM/ALL AGES/FREE. ARTSATTHEARMORY.ORG