The story behind Boxed In/Break Out at the Jepson Center


Artist Tricia Cookson installing Boxed In/Break Out


By Erin Dunn, curator for Boxed in/Break Out

I like art when you least expect it. In a phone booth, down a side street, inside an otherwise empty room. That’s why when I was challenged to think about what the east-side windows at the Jepson Center could be used for, I knew I wanted it to be a site-specific art installation. An art intervention. Instead of looking for a particular artist or already-made work that fit haphazardly in the challenging space, I turned to the creative community of Savannah. The call for artists went out in November 2015 with a submission deadline of February 1, 2016. The exhibition was planned to be up in the windows from April 28 through August 28, 2016. Towards the beginning, I struggled to explain the project. Which windows? How many are there? What materials are acceptable? Finally, after relaying all of the appropriate information, I started to receive submissions in December. At first, they slowly trickled in and I began to worry about the interest in this project. But, my fear evaporated during the last week before the deadline as the trickle turned into a steady stream. Over 25 artists from the Savannah community submitted illustrated proposals for the competition. Many referenced Savannah, several used wood as their choice of medium, others saw the space as a more straightforward gallery to hang their works. Each proposal had some unexpected element to them that made choosing too difficult. That’s one of the reasons I chose to utilize a guest judge for this project. The other reason was to maintain impartiality, because Savannah is a small town as most of us know. When I asked Linda Dougherty, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, to pick the winner, I anxiously awaited her choice.

BIBO_Blog_350Ms. Dougherty chose artist Tricia Cookson, citing her intriguing use of colored strings that evolve in increasingly complex patterns across the six windows. Tricia had graduated from SCAD with an MFA in fibers and currently works at Hancock Day School as an art teacher. Glancing over Tricia’s website and investigating her past work and exhibitions, I knew the window project would be in good hands. Tricia decided to fabricate frames at home, string them there, and transport them to the Jepson Center. Once the frames were installed in the space, white fabric was draped over the back of the space to cover the seams of the window panels at the back. As with most installations, there were moments of concern and creative resolution as problems were identified and solved. Now that Boxed In/Break Out is fully installed, I can only hope that it stops people in their tracks. They have probably walked past or glanced at these windows many times, but now there is something to hold their attention and delight the eye in the most wonderfully unexpected way.


About the author: Erin Dunn is Telfair Museums’ Middleton Curatorial Fellow and will join the museum on an ongoing basis as Assistant Curator in October.