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Artwork from the Sun Valley Center for the Arts exhibit includes “From Dim to Bright—Henrietta, 2015” by artist Gail Tarantino.

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts is presenting a new BIG IDEA project called “I Need To Tell You Something: The Lost Art of Letter Writing.” The multidisciplinary project encourages the viewer to explore the various ways that our society will be impacted if handwritten letters become obsolete. It also examines how the ubiquity of social media and online communication has given new meaning to handwritten letters and the insight they provide into the perceptions, emotions, personalities and daily experiences of the sender.

“I have personally always been enamored of storytelling through letters and the beauty of letter-writing,” said Denise Simone, core company artist of Company of Fools. “What happens to our memories if all our communication is through social media? Who’s holding the written history of our lives? What happens to our thoughts without that physical form? Will social media make us less social? Technology is dynamically changing the way we communicate.”

A news release from The Center asks, “When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? Or sent one? In this era of instantaneous communication, a letter is a rare and treasured item. As a result, we tend to view letter writing today with a kind of nostalgia for a time when life was slower or simpler.”

The visual arts exhibition at The Center’s gallery in Ketchum will provide a glimpse into the various ways that artists are responding to and interpreting the change in modern modes of communication. Artist Marc Dombrosky uses notes, cardboard boxes and letters with writing on them that he finds randomly, and embroiders on top of the words. His work titled, “ARE YOU MISSING A BLUE

PLASTIC BOX” will be shown as part of the “Lost Art of Letter Writing” exhibit.

Another artist whose work will be shown is Gail Tarantino, a painter who writes letters of thanks, often to scientists, and then translates the letters into colored dots, said Courtney Gilbert, curator of visual arts for The Center.

Tarantino’s work, “From Dim to Bright—Henrietta” in acrylic ink on linen shows a series of multicolored dots that are clearly in the format of a letter—in horizontal lines that are evenly spaced, with a salutation on the top and closing on the bottom right, but contains no words.

Envelopes and stamps as art are also featured in the exhibit. Artist Andrew Bush takes photographs of envelopes from the back and mounts them in wood frames. These are displayed in a group, showing the juxtaposition of the shapes, sizes and various flaps—from plain to decorative.

A work by artist Tucker Nichols consists of a postcard with a design made out of colorful 2-cent stamps, each with a picture of a silver and turquoise Navajo necklace. The stamps are arranged in a creative pattern, leaving a stamp-size rectangle in the center for the address.

“He loves the postal system—the idea that you can put a stamp on anything and it will be delivered across the country,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert noted that she hoped the exhibit and the BIG IDEA project would inspire people to think about the various forms of communications and their importance, personally and historically.

“I hope that people would come away from the exhibit realizing the value that letters have—not only as communication but as part of their personal history that might outlast them, and to give a little thought to the care with which they communicate, no matter what form they use,” she said.

As part of the multidisciplinary BIG IDEA project, The Center will also offer a Family Day on March 5 with a free tour of the exhibit and a letter-writing project called “Letters to Your Future Self.” It will also host a teen workshop called “Printing Your Own Postcards” in April and a “Lasting Letters” workshop with letter-writing guide Frish Brandt on March 10, 11 and 12. Company of Fools will perform a reading of the play “Dear Elizabeth” about the friendship between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell at the Liberty Theatre on March 16.

For more information about the exhibit and multidisciplinary events, to order tickets or to register for a class or workshop, visit www.sunvalleycenter.org or call 726-9491.

Email the writer: eyoumans@mtexpress.com

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