Free Letters For Friends Feeling Blue

Seated on a street corner beside a mailbox in a New York City neighbourhood, performance artist Brandon Woolf acts as a scribe to try and help strangers connect with their loved ones during the pandemic. A sign beside him reads, “Free Letters For Friends Feeling Blue.”

In a project inspired by the historical practice of consolation letters, Woolf used his 1940s portable typewriter to write and send letters to anyone who wished to participate. His goal was to provide meaningful connections, outside of the usual method of Facetime calls and text messages, for people who may be experiencing isolation during the pandemic.

"When interpersonal connection is risky...What are other ways where we can be together?" Woolf said in an article with Park Slope Scribe. "What is a better experience than getting a piece of mail in your mailbox from somebody you didn't expect to hear from?"

The letter-writing, he hoped would help his neighbourhood deal with all kinds of grief, whether it be the loss of a loved one, a job, or even a sense of normalcy, Woolf said.

"Interactions go from very endearing, to very heavy and serious," he said. "I feel like my job is to open up a space for as serious and heavy, or as goofy, or as in between as you would like."

Woolf said he wrote letters for everyone from a worried mother writing to her son in the army to a toddler looking to send a letter to its stuffed toy at home.

By the end of the project, Woolf wrote over 50 letters for people in his neighbourhood. While some letters were solely dictated to him, his favorites were the collaborative efforts between himself and the letter-writer.

Woolf hopes his project can inspire others to reach out to friends and family with a letter during the pandemic. With technology at our disposal, writing a letter shows the person you took a bit of extra time and effort to reach out.

Now more than ever, we need to find unique ways to connect with one another.