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Artists featured in the Art Department's Snail Mail Art Show: Mona Cook, June Cook, Katie Gilmour, and  C. Noon, 

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Stamped with inspiration


B Y  A U D R E Y  C A R O

SALEM — Snail Mail is leaving a trail in the state capital through two projects that inspired each other the way their creators hope to inspire you. 

“It was maybe holiday time, when I thought it would be great to do a mail art show,” said Jessica Ramey, owner of Salem's Art Department, LLC

A friend told her someone was launching a Salem Snail Mail Art Swap. Ramey didn’t know who, but reached out through Instagram. 

“It happened to be a friend of mine, Summer Reyes,” Ramey said. “It was really serendipitous.” 

Ramey wanted to make sure the Snail Mail Art Show wouldn’t detract from Reyes and D Howden's monthly art swap. 

“I met with Summer and D and they said, ‘Absolutely, let’s do it,’” Ramey said. “They were really encouraging.” 

The show runs through March 20 in the Art Department's gallery space at 254 Commercial St. NE. 

“I thought that the snail mail art show was terrific,” Reyes said. “So many works of art were displayed; and I also feel inspired! I thought it was funny, though, that so many local artists, I think, just wanted a chance to show their art.” 

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Ramey was intrigued by the mail process. 

“To me that’s really interesting,” she said. “You created this piece and when you send it off into the world, you don’t know how it’s going to be handled or marked. Especially at the postal service. It might get eaten up in a certain section.” 

The idea was for artists to mail their pieces, no larger than 5-by-7 inches, to the Art Department, but many were dropped off. Decorated envelopes are displayed with their corresponding pieces. 

Ramey hopes visitors feel encouraged to make their own art. 

“I want them to understand that art doesn’t have to be in a museum,” she said. “It’s something that you live with; it’s part of your life.” 

There are many barriers to art, she said, including the cost of making it.


“It’s always good to start with the things that you have,” she said. “Go through your recycling. I wouldn’t skimp on paint because you want that high pigment, but I might skimp on the paper.” 

Collage can be made from old magazines or found items and a glue stick, she added.  

Collecting art can be expensive too. 


“We need to get past collecting (art) for its monetary value,” she said. 


The Art Department has a history of community shows, Ramey said, alternating them with shows of up-and-coming artists. 

“I think both are really important,” she said. “My first show was at the Art Department and it was lovely. It was so wonderful to have your friends and family there all visibly supporting you and able to cheer you on.” 

ABOVE: The works of Justin Rich and  Annabella Ramey.

Ramey hopes to offer more shop space for creating as coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Currently the Art Department holds some classes over Zoom. 

Salem Snail Mail Art Swap 

The idea for the Salem Snail Mail Art Swap came to Howden and Reyes during an Instagram live conversation.


According to Howden, one of its inspirations was the lack of motivation to create during the first part of the pandemic.  

“I would FaceTime with a friend and sometimes not talk, just do art together,” they said. “It gave us an incentive to do art.” 

They called them art calls. 

“Summer and I do art calls at least once a week,” Howden said. 

It’s an opportunity to share in creating during a time when when people are feeling “low-bandwidth.” 

“Summer had been doing PDX correspondence,” Howden said. “I said, ‘What if we just do something in Salem?’ There were three people on the IG live.” 

Howden and Reyes reached out to Portland Correspondence Co-op organizers and modified some of their practices. 

Howden posted about the Salem Snail Mail Art Swap for the first time in December. 

Interested artists can send a direct message with their names and mailing and email addresses through their Instagram accounts. A spreadsheet with first names and addresses is then created and distributed. People are paired to make sure everyone receives at least one piece of mail, but participants may send out as many as they like. 

Each month has a theme. January's was "Dreams," February's was "Growing," and March's is "Light." 

“My own experience is, I have a hard time manifesting inspiration out of nowhere,” Howden said. 

The art swap is a casual, accessible way to get motivated, they said. 

“The thing I love the most about the Salem Snail Mail is getting random art in the mail,” Reyes said. “It’s like a sweet hug in the mail, all month long.” 

Anyone is welcome to join, Howden said, even if they don’t live in Salem.

“I don’t feel the need to gatekeep people,” they said. “Anybody who feels comfortable and wants to join, that’s great. For me, the purpose is to give people inspiration to create.” 

They want artists to share themselves, have fun, and experience a bit of joy.


“There’s so much room for people to do whatever,” Howden said. “This is not something where you have to pull out a canvas.” 

Howden likened it to a postcard for art,rather than a full letter. 

All skill levels are encouraged; some artists even partner with their children. 

“It’s all welcomed and encouraged,” Howden said. “Come as you are. Be gracious about what you receive. We’re all pretty critical of ourselves. It’s nice to be in a space where all parts of the process are welcomed.” 

April’s theme is "Flora and Fauna," in honor of Earth Day. Sign up by March 31. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author, too, participated in the Snail Mail Art Show. Check out the full exhibit at the Art Department in Salem.

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From left: Jude Heimbuch, Rebecca Munk, and Jennifer Moody pose with Snaily, the unofficial mascot of the Snail Mail Art Show, at the Art Department on Saturday, March 13.




César Honan


"Annual Mini Canvas Show" 

Submit 1-2 pieces of original artwork on mini canvas from the Art Department. No submission fee. Prizes awarded for categories.

SUBMISSION: May 14 – May 28 

RECEPTION: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, June 4 


"Salem Sketchers Show" 

Check out this community of talented, local artists who sketch together each month. Sketches and sketchbooks will be on display. 

RECEPTION: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 2


LIVE SKETCHING IN ELECTRIC ALLEY: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 16 


Jesus Santillanes


254 Commercial St NE, Salem 

(503) 364-7465

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays (closed Mondays)