Walk by certain ordinary spots in the city, and you might spot something that stops you.
“Please: I wish I could see you just one more time,” reads an official looking sign once posted in Volunteer Park. “Attention: You are wonderful and deserve every happiness,” reads another, installed in Fremont. And at one intersection in the University District, two back-to-back crosswalk buttons make people do a double-take: “Push to remember” and “Push to forget.”
The signs started showing up in 2016, mysteriously tagged with a website: “WSP.SPACE.” Type that into your address bar and you get to weirdsideprojects.com, a collection of “experiments, thoughts, and objects of no consequence.” The site doesn’t say anything about who’s behind it.
She’s a designer named April Soetarman.
I met up with April at Gas Works Park, where she put up another one of her signs — a particularly significant one. It reads, “Notice: I never stopped loving you. I hope you’re well.” When she posted an earlier copy of it in the city last spring, someone found it and shared it on Tumblr, where it went viral.
“I was Internet famous,” April said. Though fame was never really the point. The point, at first, was creativity.
April is 27 and works in architectural design. She loves it, but it takes a while to see her work in the world. So back in 2015, April made up a challenge she called “30 days of April.” Each day of that month, for no more than 30 minutes, she created a new thing in a brand new medium. An octopus on newsprint. A bunch of circles on a spoon.
By the time the month was over, she knew she didn’t want to stop. So she started weirdsideprojects.com to give her wild ideas a home.
Those wild ideas include projects like Notes to Self (musical notes, on an actual piano), Misfortune Cookies (“Do not open if you have recently faced a loss, breakup, etc.”), and the @FoodRomanceBot on Twitter (“The stranger’s figure was handsome like a flawless creme brûlée.”)
But it was that “Notice” sign that sent April in a new direction. She’d struggled to work with words and wanted to get better at it. And she wanted to make more things that delight people. To her, that means projects that exist at “the intersection of the positive and unexpected.”
Plus, the “Notice” sign — and the signs she’s made since — reflect something powerful she’s felt in her own life. And something about creating those signs, and sneaking them into the urban space she works in, help her process a whole range of emotions.
She likes to think the people who stumble on a sign feel something, too.
“It brings up somebody for everybody,” she said.
April’s posted about 20 of her signs in public places. Most all are in Seattle, though not all of them are still up (she suspects people have taken them, though she can’t know for sure). She’ll be posting more soon, but don’t expect to find them easily. She likes to leave her art on ordinary looking fences and posts, where only the keenest urban explorers will notice them.
“It’s for people who pay a little closer attention,” April said.
Want to hear more about April and her weird side projects? Check out the talk below she gave earlier this year at Ignite Seattle. Want to see more of her art? Check out her installation at Seattle Center, chimeforest.
And if you want to help April out with her signs and other projects, she told us she’s always on the lookout for handy resources to build her art (“custom caution tape is pricey!”), and tips on good locations to install more projects around the city. Want to reach out? She’s at [email protected].