• Asa Ana

Pedalling Art Ephemera

Two artist bike and share art

In an era when email and cell phones make communication immediate and transitory, if also a bit less thoughtful, two artists recreated a more intimate, meaningful way of communicating. In their "Pedal Postal Project," John Peña and Allie Reeves will personally deliver 300 letters, beginning July 23, by biking throughout Pittsburgh — from Downtown and the North Side to Oakland, Point Breeze and the East End.

Through the Pedal Postal Project, Peña and Reeves are encouraging people to reconnect to everyday activities they have taken for granted and devote an extra measure of attention to what can be the mundane activity of sending and receiving mail. To infuse this sense of personality, they require correspondents to handwrite their letters and draw maps or include directions for delivery, providing an opportunity for them to create a piece of art to accompany their mail. Peña and Reeves will then adorn the letters with their own custom stamps.

"I enjoy marks on paper and the way that entire stories and lives can be seen in a handwritten letter," Peña said.

Through the effort and energy they expend to deliver the letters by bicycle, Peña and Reeves hope the recipients will think about the distance between them and the letter-writer.

"People imagine you biking all the way to them and they think, perhaps, that they could do something like that, too," Reeves said. "They could find a self-reliant way to do what they want, and maybe it's as easy as hopping on a bike and going to see the friend who wrote you the letter in the first place."

On a grander scale, Peña and Reeves hope to inspire people to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. "We are constantly seeking opportunities to transform our world into one that is a bit more mysterious, a bit more wondrous and a bit more flexible — one that is capable of transformation and change," Peña said.

Peña and Reeves were inspired by past mail carriers, especially those of the Pony Express, which offered fast mail delivery by horseback from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast. Artists have been inspired to use the mail system for decades. Russian artists, called the Zaumists, used rubber stamps to mail their artwork as early as 1912.

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