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Toy Pianos Mail Art Show at the Toy Piano Festival in San Diego, California 

September 5, 2001

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Had you ever heard of a "Mail-Art" Show? Janice Kelsh, founder of the Miniature Piano Enthusiast Club, was the guest speaker at the Toy Piano Festival at the University of San Diego on September 5, 2001.  During that festival, Scott Paulson's Toy Piano Mail-Art Show was highlighted.   Scott is with the Toy Piano Library of the Geisel Library in San Diego. This is a great idea that could be adapted to a number of other collecting areas to gain promotion for your club or society...your hobby area...and to foster a different type of member activity.


Scott Paulson explained, "mail art is a fun medium where people mail handmade postcards or regular letters as "art." He continued, "At the end of the summer during the last toy piano recital of the summer season here at the music library, the audience, while listening to the show, are going to sort through mail that was sent in by "toy piano people" that relays some aspect of their interest in toy pianos. We're doing this to help explain the interest in toy pianos...the mail that we'll get might be a regular letter from someone with a picture of them with their miniature pianos. Maybe some people will mail in a baby picture of themselves with a toy piano...maybe some people will mail a poem...others might send in those great hand-made postcards that people make with materials from those great rubber stamp/craft stores...even just a regular old letter can be so touching."


The Toy Piano Collection at Geisel Library hosted the toy piano themed mail art show. They invited anyone who chose to participate to send them a hand-made postcard, poem, photo of themselves with a toy piano, or whatever they deemed appropriate. The show helped explain the affection and interest in the toy piano collection at the library. The theme of the show was "Where is your toy piano?"  


Mail art is a medium founded by famous New York artist Ray Johnson in the 1950's. Among his diverse arts activities, Johnson mailed small hand-made postcards as works of art, unsolicited, through the U.S. Postal Service to people. Part of the aesthetic of this medium is the formality of the delivery and arrival process (the stamping, postmarking, sorting through many hands, etc. Themed Mail-Art shows are an outgrowth from Ray Johnson's work. In a themed show, an organizer sends word through the mail-art community about a theme and a deadline and an address. There is usually some sort of an opening event where people are invited to sort through the mail. Those who send mail art know that they do not get their mail back. It becomes property of the addressee (just like with anything sent through the postal service). Participants in a themed mail art show do expect one thing: documentation of the show. Documentation can be as simple as a thank you note from the organizer and list of the participants and the participants' addresses. Participants who don't want their address on the documentation don't list their address on their mail art.


The Toy Piano Collection at Geisel Library consists of actual instruments, extant literature, and commissioned scores (composers write works for the instruments in the collection and toy piano recitals are given among the music stacks.)


For information about more recent mail art shows, or activities at the Library, please contact The Toy Piano Collection at Geisel Library, Attn: Scott Paulson 0175-Q, UCSD, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093