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Lovely Sentiment At The Briscoe Museum

Another Valentines has come and gone, but I've found something you should consider putting on next year's calendar for February. It's the Briscoe Western Art Museum's Pony Express Love Letters program. I talked to several people involved, and as one proved, you don't even have to be a San Antonian. Jan Stonestreet is a Rockwall teacher, in town for a convention. She saw the Love Letters placard outside the Briscoe and rushed in to create some old fashioned Valentine letters by hand.


"It takes a lot more time to sit down and write, especially in cursive. To think your thoughts through. It's personal" she said. "You see the scratches, you see the mistakes."

She thinks her husband and daughters will love getting their letters.


"I think my girls will cry. I think my husband will just laugh and say 'thank you so much.' And he will be smiling from ear-to-ear."


For the past two weeks the Briscoe has been encouraging people to come in and write these letters in long hand or by using a vintage manual typewriter. Those letters are then slipped into beautiful envelopes addressed by the San Antonio Calligraphy Guild. The envelopes themselves are works of art.


"Thank you. The definition of calligraphy is beautiful lettering." 


Leslie Winakur is one of the Calligraphers who volunteered their time. She continued to describe Calligraphy, citing its root word. 


"Caligraphos, from the Greek. We do all kinds of lettering. Some of it's very formal, and some is not."   


Winakur takes their duty seriously. She quotes an author about Calligraphy.

"There has never been a time when our hands have not been our first and most sacred tool."


Stonestreet and her husband live outside downtown San Antonio so their Valentines were delivered by mail. But for downtowners, the Pony Express Love Letters brigade steps forward. 15 volunteers from the SATX Social Ride bike club gathered not on horseback, but on bikes to hand deliver 70 letters on Friday. The Briscoe's Beth Folds explains.

"Last year we had 260 letters total and 90 of them were hand-delivered."

Jennifer Kirklys came with her husband to help deliver, laughing that it was "an opportunity to spread the love!"  She admitted she hadn't gotten around to writing him a letter.


"Sorry, honey" she laughed. "You'll get something else later, how's that?


"Fantastic" said husband Thomas, and they laughed.


It was time for delivery and the Briscoe let me go along. First stop:  we had two letters for Taylor Browning at Artpace. One from a friend, and the other seemed to be from an anonymous admirer. I asked her to describe it.


"It's a very beautiful sentiment. It seems like a poem; I'm not sure who wrote it." She added "I did recently get married, so..."

There was a tense moment as Browning was wondering who that admirer was. Then it hit her: it was her husband!

 "Is that who it's from? That's so sweet! Oh my gosh...wow. That's the most amazing surprise. I love you, Hunter!" she said to her husband.


We packed up and headed to the second recipient, Joe Harjo at the Southwest Arts and Crafts School. Joe was moved.


"Oh, isn't that sweet?" he laughed. Eyeing the envelope he said "Wow, fancy. Look at that."

His Valentine came from his wife Julie. Harjo described the sentiment inside as 

"Love, thankfulness, gratitude, and hope. I feel blessed. Great to get a little surprise at work and not be expecting it."


Our last delivery took us to  Alysse Swientek at the Metropolitan Health District.

"This is from my very dear friend Beth--she's so sweet. It took her time to write this out to me. It's truly a forgotten way of telling someone they mean something to you. Especially on Valentine's Day." 


At a time when communication is mostly through e-mail and text, letter writer Lowell Tacker thinks this program needs to stick around.

"I think there's something more tangible about holding something and touching it and knowing that someone took the time to do that and it's less ephemeral than an e-mail or a text.  And I'm glad the Pony Express is still around in 2016." 


The Briscoe says Pony Express Love Letters will be around in 2017, too. So all you lovestruck poets and writers,  let the composing begin.


For more on the Briscoe Western Art Museum, go here

For more on the Pony Express Love Letters program, go here.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii