Notes from the Schoolyard

Feb 07, 2020 — Jun 03, 2020

Notes from the Schoolyard is a mail art exhibition organized in collaboration with Talented Visual Art in the Lafayette Parish School System. Typically, mail art is sent like correspondence to friends or to people unknown to the artist. When arts institutions host mail art exhibitions, there is typically an understanding that the venue is supposed to display all works of art sent by those who answer the call. In the case of Notes from the Schoolyard the students of Troy Dugas, Brian Guidry, Emee Morgan (organizer), and Kelli Richard sent the Hilliard their art with the understanding we would show their work.

Mail art is a predominantly non-commercial practice that frequently circumnavigates academic institutions. It crystalized as a recognizable art form in the mid-twentieth century and is often posited as a precursor to net or digital art because it used non-centralized means of distribution like individual letters. Specifically, mail art anticipated the non-hierarchical, digital means of displaying artwork we currently find on listservs, social media, and websites. The first notable mail art exhibition took place at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970. Curated by Marcia Tucker, the exhibition was titled Ray Johnson: New York Correspondence School Exhibition. Recent exhibitions showcasing mail art include Pushing the Envelope and snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, respectively organized by the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Interestingly, cultural developments in the twenty-first century make populist movements like mail art, net art, or even crowdsourced works of art moderated by artists more relevant than ever. Equity in terms of how artists and audiences are treated by museums, as well as the ease with which images can be transmitted between individuals or large groups (without the help of cultural institutions) are making institutions reevaluate their relationship with mail art and the like. This is why I as a curator am so excited to give a group of high school students their first museum show. Simply put, Notes from the Schoolyard makes room for voices other than mine in our exhibition program using a platform for collaboration that is new to me.

Benjamin M. Hickey | Curator of Exhibitions

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