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Beyond the Box- ArtBox 2021

Beyond the Box: ArtBox 2021

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Two young artists. Three artist mentors. One project to change the world.

During the last week of February for the last ten years, WMA would transform into a beautiful realm of chaos as teams of high school students took over the galleries to create installation art works from scratch in less than 48 hours. Teams were paired with professional artist mentors who helped them make the best use of their time and talents and to help the teams manifest their visions. Paint was spilled along with a lot of sweat and a few tears. In the end everyone was proud of what they were able to accomplish in so little time with very few resources. Out of the Art Box was a wonder to behold.

This year, COVID forced us to reimagine what this installation competition could look like in the virtual sphere. How could we create a space that would foster the same kind of out of the box thinking and collaborative exchanges that Art Box of years past so beautifully orchestrated? Could we coordinate a team event? Or should we devise a project that requires all participants to work together? In the end we settled on the latter, and ArtBox 2021 was born: a social practice experiment in which our team of high school students and professional artist mentors worked together to tackle an issue facing the Wiregrass area. We met via Zoom and collaborated through Google Drive. Connections were made and discussions flourished. Our team quickly landed on bias as the topic they wished to address. After a few productive meetings with our mentors, they decided to create a zine, entitled Dissecting Bias, that would educate the public on what bias is, why it’s harmful, and how we can address bias in our lives and our community. Team member Eli Bonds had this to say when asked why they chose bias as a focus: “We chose to address bias because bias is a prominent issue in the South, and being minorities, is an issue we both face. We wanted to make victims of bias feel seen, and to educate people who commit acts of bias against people, so that hopefully they could see the error in their actions. Victims are never alone, and I like to believe anyone can change their beliefs and learn to love everyone.”  Ariel Smith added, “To address bias and to eradicate bias are two different things. What my team wanted to do was open the eyes of the public to visualize, realize, and take responsibility for the issues we create. We are all responsible for ourselves so let’s take action and become part of the solution.”

Dissecting Bias includes 10 original art works created by our mighty team of two. Ariel created the layout and Eli conducted research and wrote the copy. The timeline for this project stretched into months but building a zine from scratch while juggling the school and work is no easy task. Neither of our team members had created a zine before and we are so proud of their efforts! Dissecting Bias was printed in a limited run of 250 copies. You can pick up a copy of Dissecting Bias today at several locations in Dothan and Enterprise. A copy is included with the purchase of an ArtBox reusable tote, available at Wiregrass Museum of Art both on site and online. Proceeds from the tote will go towards funding future programming at WMA including programming for teens. 

Thank you to our amazing mentors, Doug Baulos, William Dooley, and Willoughby Hastings. Your support, encouragement, and knowledge added so much to this experience. And thank you to our student team, Eli Bonds and Ariel Smith. You took a small seed of an idea and transformed it into something powerful. We are so proud of your work!

Lastly, thank you to our sponsor, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, for supporting the ArtBox program and giving us the freedom to try something new in these uncertain times.

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