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One of the artifacts in the Museum of Almost Realities? The stuffed animal you lost as a kid. (📸: Jen Au / Seattle Art Museum)
That quote up top is what hundreds of locals read before they stepped into April Soetarman’s Museum of Almost Realities.
April is a Seattle artist who likes to get people thinking about their own lives — sometimes when they least expect it. We wrote about her last year, when she posted ordinary-looking signs around the city that said extraordinary things. Like the one that was on a fence at Gas Works Park: “Notice: I never stopped loving you. I hope you’re well.”
April’s Museum of Almost Realities is her latest project — a collection of fictional artifacts “from the life you might have had.” Everything from the license plate of the car that didn’t hit you to the apartment keys in the city you never lived in. Each artifact in the collection is presented in the second person, but inspired by April’s own life. One is a piano book, labeled with the year — 1998 — and this quote: “‘You know,’ she said gently, ‘You don’t have to continue, if you don’t want to.’’
The exhibit popped up at the Seattle Art Museum during SAM Remix on March 30, and April’s working on a print and web version so more people can “visit.” In the meantime, she answered a couple questions about what she thinks looking back — and letting go — is all about.
You invited Seattleites who visited the museum to “release their own regrets,” and more than 100 people contributed what-ifs from their own lives. What did people turn in?
“The most common themes were what-ifs in career (jobs they wished they had taken) and love (people they wished they had loved, or wish they hadn’t loved), followed by travel. Some of them were things that were beyond the contributor’s control. Those were some of the most heartbreaking, seeing people carry guilt about something that wasn’t their fault, that they had no active choice in.”
You exhibited the Museum of Almost Realities first in New York and then in Seattle. What’s one thing that was different?
“I had more people in Seattle say that the “Office Mug” artifact made them upset. It reads: ‘You didn’t buy that one-way ticket to Chicago. You played it safe, this time around. You’re looking out for your future, of course, and you stay at the job, it’s fine, you tell yourself every 12-minute morning commute, day after day. Stability is worth the price of freedom.'”
What’s something you hope people can take away from the project?
“We’re each the curators of our own personal Museum. We can choose to stuff our pockets with the past and have it drag us down, or we can discard it completely, but the Museum sorta exists in that middle ground, where we’re acknowledging how important something was, but also leaving it behind to not weigh us down in our day to day.”
Lots of people in Seattle are new here, or are making big decisions about how they want to live here. How important do you think it is to look back?
“I think it’s important to look back before looking forward, like checking your rear-view mirror. Don’t live in the past, but don’t pretend that it didn’t happen. It’s more about acceptance, and space, and distance, and reflection so you can be more clear going forward.”
April’s next project is something she’s calling the “Department of Emotional Labor.” Want to stay up to date with her work? Sign up for her newsletter here.
NOW HERE’S WHAT’S GOING ON IN YOUR CITY 😻
We’ve all been there. You’re out in the city, and for one reason or another, you need to just let it out. Enter Curbed with one of the most surprising — and necessary — lists of places we’ve seen out there: The 18 best spots in Seattle to cry in public. 😭 (Curbed Seattle)
If you read one thing about our housing market… make it this column by real estate reporter Mike Rosenberg, who tracks the ups and downs of the hottest housing market in the country. Here he takes a minute to break down a big question: Why do homes cost so darn much around here anyway? The answer can probably be summed up in this one stat: “In the typical year over the last two decades, the county had 1 home for sale for every 230 people. Now? There’s one home available for every 1,060 people.” (The Seattle Times)
Find another coffee shop. ‘Cause on the afternoon of May 29, your neighborhood Starbucks is closing. Why? So the company can train their baristas on racial bias. To back up: Over the weekend, a Starbucks barista in Philadelphia got two black men arrested for trespassing in the store. Except they weren’t trespassing. They were just waiting for a friend. Video from all that went viral, there was a protest, and suffice it to say, Starbucks has some work to do. (The Stranger)
We’re not making this up. More people are adopting pets around Seattle these days, and you can thank the cat cafés. Those are the handful of spots — like Neko Cat Cafe, Cafe Cocoa and Meowtropolitan — where cats actually walk around, sit on your lap, and maybe even fall for you. Our county animal shelters have been teaming up with these businesses, plus some pet supply stores, to get the word out about all those furballs up for adoption. It hasn’t hurt. Adoptions are up 20 percent from 2016 to 2017. 🐈 (The Seattle Times)
Dang it. On Tuesday, we introduced you to Linnea Westerlind, a West Seattleite who spent four years exploring nearly 500 of our city’s parks. She’s super rad. What wasn’t super rad: that we goofed on her last name. It’s Westerlind, not Westerfield. Sorry about that, Linnea!
HERE'S WHAT'S COMING UP 📅
🗣 Thursday: Explore the living history of Seattle’s first people at the second edition of Seattle Live (Queen Anne)
💻👩 April 23-27: Connect with inspiring mentors, peers, and resources at the weeklong Women in Tech Regatta (South Lake Union)
🎙 April 24: Boost your small business and meet peers in your industry at the inaugural Elevate NW Conference (Queen Anne)
Want to partner on your event with us? Here’s how.
🎟 Laugh away your parenting woes (University District)
🎶 Get your swing on at the Hep Cat Ball (South Lake Union)
🏈 Meet the 2018 Huskies at this big spring fan fest (University District)
🏞 Hike a trail on Earth Day (All over)
GOING TO ONE OF THESE EVENTS?
Send us a pic or tag #theevergrey. See more upcoming events (and submit your own) on our events page.
GO GET YOUR FIX ☕
Espresso Vivace on Broadway in Capitol Hill is serving up free shots of espresso starting at 12 p.m. today, with a tip jar on deck to benefit YouthCare’s Orion Center. Kudos to Capitol Hill Seattle for word on the treat, and for this look back on Vivace’s three decades in the city.
See you all tomorrow. — The Evergrey