Peterborough resident Chuck Welch has been participating in mail art — a global phenomenon in which creators exchange art through the mail — for nearly 50 years. He’s even donated more than 5,000 pieces of his collection to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

Mail art around the world

Chuck Welch of Peterborough, in front of one of the posters of a mail art collage project created by mail artist Ryosuke Cohen that was shown during Welch’s exhibition at the Sharon Arts Center in 2019. The show, "Errors, Fakes and Oddities: An International Mail Art Exhibition," was curated by Welch’s daughter Lauryn Welch. The collages are collaborative pieces created by Cohen from stamps and prints of mail artists’ work from around the world. 

Paper making with meaning

Chuck Welch reads through a letter from prominent Argentinian artist Edgardo Antonio Vigo, whose son, Abel Luis Palomo, was disappeared at the age of 19 by the military junta in 1976. Vigo requested Welch make paper from the clothing his son wore the day he disappeared, during a time when Welch was making paper from clothes for his Material Metamorphosis project. Vigo then used the paper for a mail art project commemorating his son’s life. 

Interactive stamps

Chuck Welch deposits 75 cents into his stamp machine — one of two that were an interactive part of his 2019 mail art exhibit at the Sharon Arts Center — and receives a Voodoo Monroe stamp that he created.

Political stamps

Chuck Welch created a “Boycott Exxon” stamp in 1989, days after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, using his moniker CrackerJack Kid. Welch mailed the stamps to various newspapers across the country to print, to keep people talking about the spill, after which he received inquiries about buying the stamps. In addition to sending the stamps to those interested, he strategically placed them in public spaces including on Exxon gas pumps. 

A lifetime of art

Mail artist Chuck Welch looks through his remaining archive of mail art in his basement in Peterborough on Thursday afternoon. Most of Welch’s archive has been donated to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, which acquired more than 5,000 pieces from his collection, and the University of Iowa. Even though mail art is a simple concept, Welch sees it as a radical act because it is a gift and not a commodity. 

Jamie Browder can be reached at 352-1234 ext. 1427 or

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