Opening Thursday for the Smithsonian’s “Graceful Envelope” Showing at SUU’s Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery

Published: February 25, 2003 | Author: Lydia Johnson | Read Time: 2 minutes

Southern Utah University’s Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery will host an Opening Reception for the Smithsonian’s “Graceful Envelope” national exhibit this Thursday, February 27, from 7-9 p.m. The Reception is free and open to the public.

A charming exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, the “The Graceful Envelope: 1995-1999” reveals that the beauty of a letter is not always confined to the emotional prose or charming sentiments inside. The exhibit consists of 135 stamped and canceled envelopes that served as artists’ canvasses, and were entries in the Postal Museum’s Graceful Envelope Contest.

The Graceful Envelope celebrates the marriage of calligraphy and philately. The contest began in 1995 because the museum wished to mount an informal display of expert calligraphy for museum workshop participants to see. Artist and calligraphers were asked to send their artistic envelopes through the mail, and artfully address them to “The Graceful Envelope,” in care of the museum. But what followed was altogether unexpected. The museum received more than 200 stunningly crafted envelopes from around the world. It was immediately apparent that the design and visual appeal of the envelopes was as important and engaging as the calligraphy. The remarkable assortment of artful covers inspired the museum to offer the program annually and, from each year’s best, produce an art exhibition. Samples of past entries can be found on the National Postal museum’s Web site at

“Letters once were precious possessions, tied in bundles with silk ribbon and kept safe in a scented drawer,” exhibition curator Esther Washington says. “On entries to the Graceful Envelope contest, the words, the illustrations, the colors, the choice and

placement of a postage stamp…the sheer beauty of the envelope itself is a wonder to behold.

In their various styles and media, the envelopes range from colorfully contemporary to delicately old-fashioned, from whimsical and witty to poignant and sentimental. The stamp is often an integral aspect of the envelope’s design whether incorporated directly into the illustration or used simply to accent the artist’s theme. Inspiration has come from the vast series of stamps releases by the United States Postal Service as well as those from foreign countries. Entries to The Graceful Envelope include stamps celebrating black heritage, the artwork of various artists, American legends, love and nature.

For more SITES info, check out

The Graceful Envelope Exhibit runs through March 28 at the Braithwaite. For more info, see

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