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Notes Left At 'Message In A Bottle' Exhibit Will Remain A Mystery

Paula Wissel
Thousands of messages were left in bottles at "Message in a Bottle" exhibit at the Seattle Center.

In this social media age, sharing your innermost feelings online is expected.  But, Seattle artist Xavier Lopez decided to encourage something different for his exhibit "Message in a Bottle." He asked people to write their thoughts down on paper and tuck them into a bottle.The exhibit went up in February on the Seattle Center grounds. In the poetry garden, not far from the Space Needle, Lopez attached a dozen or so empty bottles to a wire fence. There was a holder with paper and pencils and a sign that read, "Write a message to the future."

Lopez says from the very beginning the idea of putting a message in a bottle seemed to be a hit.

“I remember the first day I came back and I was like, oh my gosh, there’s ten of them, then there were thirty and I was like, holy cow, and it just exploded from there," Lopez said.

People even added their own bottles. By the time the "Message in a Bottle" exhibit came down in May, Lopez had collected thousands of notes.

He says the timing just seemed to be right.

“We had just had the election and it gave  people the chance to write down what they were feeling, what they were going through," he said.

But, if you were expecting to see a compilation of all these messages, a way to get a glimpse of what's on people's minds, you're out of luck. The content of the messages will remain a mystery for now.

Lopez says he created the exhibit as a safe space where people could say whatever they wanted and releasing the messages, even though they're anonymous, would be a betrayal of that.

"It seems to me it would be unfair to use those or in anyway judge them," Lopez said.

Lopez acknowledges that, early on, he did read about 10 of the notes to get an idea of what people were writing. And,  he was surprised by how positive the messages were. They said things like, "Don't give up," and "It will get better."

“It filled me full of hope  in humanity and it was not what I was expecting,” Lopez said.

For now, the bulk of the messages from the bottles remain unread in bags in Lopez’ closet.

He is considering a sequel to his exhibit, one that might make use of the messages. And, he says he's open to ideas.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.