Private Posts was a community art project which took some cues from the global ‘mail art’ movement. This movement started back in the 1950s and 60s and was about openness and inclusion. Any person with access to a mailbox can be involved with this project. Its handmade messiness questions the promise of our current state of binary digital connectedness.

The reflective nature of handwritten correspondence is arguably more meaningful. The physical act of posting reminds us of the joys of slow mail. Being part of the community narrative and utilizing creativity to bring us in to the present moment creates a sense of well being and social connection.

Individuals created the artworks and text on postcard templates, which became the building blocks of the project. The project went through multiple stages as it developed a community narrative, which culminated in performances and an art installation. Individuals that participated in the shared process had a sense of being part of something larger. Through its development and in its final outcome, the artwork builds connection, personal reflection and healing. A moment of catharsis was experienced when posting the card and followed by a positive feeling of contributing to the shared community story. A sense we are more the same than different. The recollections or regrets were composed in private and were sent anonymously.

We played a part in UNE’s annual ‘Well Fair Day’ with over 1000 smiling eager participants. It is an annual event aimed at improving student’s mental health and wellbeing. The art cart also popped up at a local high schools ‘Grounded Day’ The day was been inspired by Mental Health Month and was organised in collaboration with the community, for all Armidale High students.

‘The New England Writers’ Centre led writing workshops to kick start the community story. Themes emerged from the 400 cards that reflect many shared experiences. This happened firstly through the writing workshops led by John Heffernan and Fiona McDonald.

The Armidale community then transformed its everyday stories into theatre. A series of theatrical ‘portrait’ pieces were created, performed and recorded. The workshops evolved from improvisation into a devised piece that was presented to camera in front of a green screen. Participants gained valuable experience of working in front of a camera. The fact that the production was going to be publically screened gave it added impetus. The postcards that inspired each piece were added to the background during postproduction. A further performance in the exhibition space brought an immediacy to the material that only live actors can achieve. They were interpreting heartfelt lines written by individuals from the Armidale community.

The postcard text and images were transformed into a short animated projection. The identified themes became part of the narrative structure. Viewing the original postcards and then seeing those same images & themes morphed into the film timeline gave an insight into how we are more the same than different. The collaboration demonstrated the power of art created with community and by the community as shared personal thoughts create connections to tell the one story.

The postcards, words, images, sounds and video recordings of the theatre performance captured during the project all become part of an art installation at the New England Regional Art Museum. Over 2000 people viewed the installation.