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Kirsten McCrea has a special delivery for art lovers

Illustrator and Papirmasse founder Kirsten McCrea, in her Toronto studio, aims to make contemporary art ‘a regular part of people’s lives,’ one mailbox at a time.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

You've got mail, and it's beautiful, thought-provoking and original.

At a time when digital communication often doesn't let the postman ring once – forget about twice – Toronto-based artist Kirsten McCrea is keeping alive hand-delivery, turning it into something of an art.

As the creator of Papirmasse, a novel subscription series using old-fashioned snail mail to deliver original works of art and literature, the Edmonton-born painter is turning mailboxes into art galleries, one envelope at a time.

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The mailable masterpieces range from postcard-issue paintings to accordion-folded books, all of them original creations by 80 unsung artists and writers from all over Canada as well as from Hungary, Costa Rica, New York and Berlin, and sold through subscriptions costing a mere $5 – postage included.

"I wouldn't say we've launched the careers of any one artist," McCrea says. "But Montreal writer Guillaume Morissette, who was in our January 2011 issue, has gone on to have quite a bit of success and he thanks us publicly for being the first to have published his work."

That "we" should actually be re-cast in the first-person singular because Papirmasse is very much a one-woman show.

The 29-year-old daughter of National Film Board executive producer Graydon McCrea and author Linda Rasmussen started it shortly after receiving her bachelor of fine arts degree at Concordia University in Montreal three years ago, motivated by a life-long love of the arts.

Since her first January of 2009 issue, she's amassed 1,000 subscribers and sold 20,000 art prints. But by charging such low prices she's not soon to retire rich.

"It's still in the labour-of-love stage," she acknowledges. "I do it because I really believe in artists, and I like the idea of making contemporary art a regular part of people's lives. It's a really fun way to engage with art, getting it through the mail. There's a feeling of surprise in every envelope."

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More

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