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Exhibit shares secrets and thoughts of Ketchikan: Silent Voices runs through March 30
Silent Voices is a collection of anonymous postcards and notes open to the public through March 30 at the Main Street Gallery. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

When the Silent Voices exhibit is taken down at the end of March, its curators plan on setting it on fire — at least most of it.

The Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council’s program development committee has curated the Silent Voices exhibit, which will be on display until March 30 at the Main Street Gallery. The collaborative community exhibit is an open-call ongoing exhibit that has collected — and will be collecting throughout the month — anonymous postcards.

“It can be an intimidating process, and maybe not till you’ve seen it do you feel the courage to, or the move, to do one yourself,” said Charley Murray-Young, a member of the Program Development Committee.

They plan on having a bonfire on March 31 at Refuge Cove to burn many of the postcards in the exhibit. Murray-Young said they’ll even be encouraging people to write secrets or messages at the bonfire and toss them in the fire.

As of Thursday morning, there were about 75 postcards inside the Main Street Gallery. Topics on the postcards deal with different emotions, secrets and thoughts. Some are upbeat, many are very personal and others deal with issues on a national scale, such as gun violence.

“What we’re finding is that this can be seen as a therapeutic process or practice. A lot of them are dealing with abuse of some sort,” said Murray-Young.

One postcard says, “Don’t let darkness keep you from being a hero.” The card includes an open pill bottle with white pills spilling out of it.

Another talks about a woman’s experience with pregnancy and a large plastic fish. “I blurted out that I was pregnant, flung the brightly coloured fish on the bed and ran,” it ends.

Other postcards display an opinion. Someone finally mustered the courage to tell the people of Ketchikan that he or she doesn’t like Oprah.

“I think that being in a small town, anonymity is really hard to achieve and have. I think that this allows people to be anonymous but also to connect,” Murray-Young said. “I think that by reading other people’s secrets — pain, or pleasure, or joy, or sadness — we can connect to one another without even really knowing it. Finding some sort of solidarity with one another.”

The postcards are hanging by many means. Some are attached with clothespins to strings that hang from pieces of driftwood that Peter Jacobs collected. Others are connected to items salvaged from the dump, such as a dresser, bicycle rims and picture frames.

There’s also a piece of glass made into a mirror on the wall donated by Alaska Glass that displays sticky notes with words on them for people to rearrange, and a red refrigerator donated by First City Players. The fridge has dozens of small magnetic words scattered around it, which Murray-Young encourages people to use to write a secret or just a message.

There are some Ketchikan-specific words — like rain — which she hopes will bring a local twist to the messages. Along with the magnetic poetry, exhibit visitors are also welcome to write things on a chalkboard in the exhibit.

There are a few interactive pieces in the exhibit, but most of it is for people to read and view. Carmel Anderson, a Ketchikan artist, has donated the Hope Quilt to be on display in the exhibit. The Hope Quilt was displayed at the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition throughout December.

The quilts includes no woven squares of cloth sewn together, but rather dozens of different-sized primed canvas squares attached together with miniature white safety pins. On the squares are bold statements and stories written in mostly black ink by Alaskans who have been affected by domestic violence or sexual assault.

There are also graphic design pieces throughout the exhibit created by Spring Barry, the chair of the program development committee, and her company, North Creative Design Co.

One of Barry’s pieces is a dictionary page that has the word “secret” on it blown up to a large scale. She used Adobe Photoshop to create the piece, making her own watercolor brushes on the program to create a woman with smudged eye makeup running down the dictionary page, resembling a woman crying. “Unseen but not undone,” the digital mixed-media piece reads.

Barry also wrote the poem that is on the walls of the exhibit, which ends with the words: I have finally found my voice and I choose to say my secrets, my fears and my pain you’ll never hold me hostage, not ever again.

People are welcome to share their secrets and thoughts on postcards throughout the month. Barry said the exhibit is a safe place for the community to do that without judgment.

“I hope that (people) find inspiration that they too can show their voice, and that it’s OK to not be OK,” Barry said. “There’s really that stigma where you’re not allowed to express yourself, people will think less of you. That’s not the situation. We can’t hear you if you don’t use your voice. It’s really the point of it all.”