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Puzzling Billboard Messages In Seattle Are Part Of Art Project On Loneliness

Melissa Kagerer
Billboard by Portland artist Alyson Provax at the corner of Nickerson St. & Florentia St. near the Fremont Bridge

You may have wondered about a series of billboards that have been up during May in Seattle. They include cryptic messages such as “you’re not alone” and “my destiny is louder than my comfort.” The signs don’t give you any indication of the sponsor. It turns out they are part of an art exhibit called A LONE. The project was coordinated by the Vignettes gallery, poetry press Gramma and the art space Mount Analogue and funded by the Bill & Ruth True Foundation.

The five billboards that are part of the public art exhibit are on main thoroughfares in Seattle.

Colleen Barry, who is with Gramma press, says the coordinators wanted to explore the idea that, although we’re surrounded by people in a city, we can still feel alone. She says seeing these messages could help you feel more connected to others by provoking thought and conversation.

Portland artist Alyson Provax created two of the billboards. The message on the one at 15th Avenue NW and 70th Street in the Ballard neighborhood  is “you’re not the only one.”  It’s printed in a way that makes it look slightly blurry. Provax says it underscores the anxiety we feel living in an ever-changing city.

Usually, she says, billboards ask you to buy something. These are different.

“These give you just a little bit of space to engage with yourself and with your feelings,” Provax said.

In addition to the billboards, Provax wrote text on mirrors that are 16 inches by 20 inches. She left them in random spots around the city for people to find. She wrote phrases on them, including “It won’t happen again."

She has no way of knowing what's happened to the mirrors, as she didn't put any identifying information on them. She says she hopes whoever finds one or sees one of her billboards regards it as “a beautiful gift” to the city.

The exhibit, which includes on-line audio and street posters ends Thursday, May 31. The billboards will be down by Friday, June 1. 

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.