Air Your Dirty Laundry: Hanging up secrets for all to see

By Anita Grace –

The Hintonburg Public House is littered with laundry, but not just any old piles of clothes. These are white t-shirts and underwear upon which people have written secrets and confessions in black, indelible marker.

“I wanted people to see they’re not alone,” explains Shawn MacDonnell, the creator of the Air Your Dirty Laundry project. Hintonburg Public House is just one of the many businesses and locations around Hintonburg hosting clotheslines that are airing secrets to the public.

Shawn MacDonnell, the creator of the Air Your Dirty Laundry project.? Photo by Anita Grace.
Shawn MacDonnell, the creator of the Air Your Dirty Laundry project.? Photo by Anita Grace.

“I love the concept,” says Ashley Smith. She was at the project launch at the Hintonburg Public House on May 5, an event that was part of the second annual Hintonburg Happening. “This could be therapeutic for some people, putting something out there. By putting it down, it becomes more real.”

MacDonnell is interested in the ways that people can put things out into the community. Already someone actively engaged in the community – through collaboration with photographer Dwayne Brown and the Community Couch for example – MacDonnell explains that a unique part of this project is seeing the secrets others are sharing, and knowing they belong to people in our community. “I don’t need to know who the person is,” he says. It can be enough to know someone else feels a similar way, shares a similar pain or perhaps a guilty pleasure.

Already close to 100 people have shared secrets through this project such as “I smoke after yoga class”, “There is no such thing as gluten-free” and “I am a Cam Girl.” [story continues after photo]


Air Your Dirty Laundry won the Hintonburg Happening arts grant for this year. Summer Baird, owner of the Hintonburg Public House and Hintonburg Happening committee member, was part of the selection committee that awarded MacDonnell the grant. “The committee liked that it has so many aspects,” she says. “It includes a lot of different businesses and community engagement.”

Laundry items can be purchased through silent auction, with some of the profits going back into the Hintonburg Happening arts fund for next year.

Hintonburg resident Laura Robinson admits she has mixed feelings about the project. “It’s hard to actually come from the heart and be truthful,” she says, holding a black marker indecisively over a blank t-shirt. She says some people may have something they need to get off their chest, “but the rest of us overthink it.” Still, she believes that it can beneficial to read the secrets others are sharing.

MacDonnell agrees. “You already know your secret,” he says. What’s interesting is seeing other people’s.

Hintonburg resident Marc Gagnon is impressed with the depth of secrets people are willing to put out in front of others. “I think people want to share,” he muses. “We’re a sharing community.”

Air Your Dirty Laundry will be on display at the Hintonburg Public House until June 9. Residents can also follow the project online at ?airyourdirtylaundryonline.? and via MacDonnell on Twitter ?@_creativision.

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