To artist Eric Rauseo, hope looks like a sunflower. To Narsiso Martinez, it’s a graduate’s cap and gown. For artist Mister Toledo, what evokes the sentiment is a tiny finch with a keyway in its chest, a brass key clutched in its beak.

The artist known as Mister Toledo’s envelope art piece, “Llave de mi Corazon.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.

Posed with a simple prompt, to create an illustration that either sent a message of hope or embodied the spirit of it, “Couriers of Hope,” a new group exhibition presented by the Port City Creative Guild, features the imaginations of over 80 artists, rendered on envelopes.

Inspired by the mail art movement of the 1960s, which centered on sending small-scale artwork through the mail, artists were allowed free rein on their choice of paper-carrying canvas for the exhibition. Some chose crisp new envelopes; others penned over bill sleeves; some unearthed a few vintage postcards.

Andrew Hem’s envelope art piece, “Return to Sender 1.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.

The results are 120 beautiful, charismatic mixed-media illustrations, spanning an amalgam of styles from pop to surrealist, abstract to photorealist and every other crossover and subculture in between. The exhibition will be available for viewing both online and in-person though the window of the historic Psychic Temple of the Holy Kiss building in Downtown beginning Jan. 19 until Feb. 28, 2021.

“Port City Creative Guild was established with hopes to bring the Long Beach art community together. We wanted to stress the importance of supporting artists and their crafts by focusing on art appreciation and education,” Julia Huang, CEO of the Long Beach communications agency Intertrend, which is one of the show’s curators, said in a statement. “We are beyond thrilled that so many artists came together.”

“Couriers of Hope” was a four-month long, massive undertaking involving 10 local art institutions who acted as curators and liaison between the 80 some artists, most of whom call Long Beach home.

This included Intertrend’s nonprofit arm Creative Class Collective, Flatline gallery, Icehouse x Ink and Drink, Compound, Inspired LBC, Creative Arts Coalition to Transform Urban Spaces, CSULB’s Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum, the Arts Council for Long Beach and the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Aside from the admiration of the 1960s movement, the decision to use envelopes as a canvas seemed fitting for the Port City Creative Guild, which wanted to create an exhibition that was in line with the nation’s current climate, that is, a reminder that despite our homebound lives, digital communication is not the only mode of connection.

They also sought to keep it egalitarian: What’s a more readily available and accessible art supply than an envelope? Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the U.S. Postal Service crisis, the gas bill still arrives—as illustrated by Narsiso Martinez’s piece, “Works on Envelopes III.”

Narsiso Martinez’s “Works on Envelopes III.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.

But there was one more idea behind the thin, delicate rectangular medium, one that was meant for Long Beach Unified School District students. While none of the art will be available for sale, LBUSD students will get the chance to take home a piece for themselves. Over 300 art kits were sent to LBUSD high schools, inviting the students to create their own hope-inspired piece to trade with one of the exhibition’s artworks.

“In this way, many new conversations between young people and artists will be started over what they have made,” Port City Creative Guild said in a statement.

Once the exhibition ends, students will be permitted to trade their work.

“Couriers of Hope” will be available for in-person viewing from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week beginning Jan. 19 through Feb. 26, 2021. The exhibition can be seen through a window at Intertrend’s offices at the historic Psychic Temple of the Holy Kiss  at 228 E. Broadway. The exhibition will be available for viewing online via the Port City Creative Guild website.

Christine Yoon’s envelope artwork, “Return to Sender.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.
Jeff Ma’s postcard piece, “Mask.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.
Hilary Norcliffe’s art piece, “Hope There are Friendly Aliens Out There Somewhere.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.
Jonathan Martinez’s “Keen Eye.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.
This piece by artist Elizabeth Munzon’s “Keep Moving Forward.” Photo courtesy Port City Creative Guild.