Q&A with 1858 Prize Finalist Aldywth

Aldwyth, one of the six finalists for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, has lived in relative seclusion in Hilton Head, SC for several decades. Her work is composed of collages and assemblages that she creates from found objects, appropriated images, and other elements. She sees her work as very closely connected to her every day life, in the sense that her work is essentially her life and vice versa.

“I make my work for myself — each ‘work’ is defined as both verb and noun. The large collages and the bricolage work are made of many small works that inform each other. I never know what a work will look like until it is finished. It’s what I get up for every morning — to see what will happen during the process. Most of my work starts out as ‘what if’ or ‘how can I.’ The subject matter is generally autobiographical with science and technology underlying themes. The work is about what I do, making art, process. I use a series to examine a problem or idea — then usually the series ends up as one work. I spend months going through magazines and books, filing and cutting out images that will become one of several ideas simmering at a time. At sometime in the preparation I have to start putting certain things together and a work starts to take form and leads me on a fabulous trip.”

Aldwyth, SecretsofMyMind

Secrets of my mind,

A brain storm of images and thoughts by artists crowding my mind pushing all else aside.

Aldwyth, “Where were you when the moon was full?”

Where were you when the moon was full?, (2001-2005)

What it means to be in the right place at the right time (or vice versa).

This very close association between life and work results in incredibly detailed and intricate works — often monumental in scale — that express a range of emotions and artistic inspiration. Each of Aldwyth’s works is different from the last, as her thoughts and emotions develop from day to day. She does not rush a project, but rather holds on to images and objects for years at a time, so that when she needs them she knows exactly where to find them. Aldwyth’s works, abstracted and detailed, have an incredibly well-thought out and polished quality which expresses an underlying meaning and inspiration — a true testament to the comprehensive and thorough process that she engages in every day.

“Evolution of a species” Aldwyth

Evolution of a species

This piece is an investigation into process and the work ethic done during seminal residency (my “MFA” thesis?) at ARAC. With access to all facilities, I learned new skills and fabricated 69 small 3 legged experiments. The work grew with me. A record of the fabrication of each work, texts collaged on every edge of containers, and all things pertaining to the work, are recorded in old ledger. I like to think of someone sitting with the work, packed, and opening each part, feeling the textures – reading the text some from old bootleg copy of Robinson Crusoe, and Science and Human Values by Bronowski and unwrapping each experiment and reading its documentation in the Book. Later, the repacked containers attached to a framework on wheels would be transported to a dark corner, leaving behind the Book open to a favorite page.

“Casablanca classic version”

Casablanca classic version (2003-2006)

Visualizing a flood of eyes looking out as if the art were the observer. Silk tissue covers work by some of my favorite artists with the eyes sliding over and around the works – some embellished with the eyes of their creator.

The World According to Zell

The world according to Zell

An encyclopedia is a snapshot of what is deemed important at THAT time and by THAT compiler THIS is a compilation of those same images as THIS artist responds to them at THIS time. Every picture from 1873 Zell Encyclopedia (2000 plus) rearranged as still life, landscape, portraiture, abstraction, science, technology. Penciled across the central background are thoughts on the effect technology would have had on the process and the differences between traditional and computer generated collage. The attachment assists with details.

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range

1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events

India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015

Q&A With 1858 Prize Finalist, Ebony Patterson

Ebony G. Patterson, a finalist for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, has an Honors Diploma in Painting from Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, as well as an MFA in Printmaking and Drawing from Sam Fox College of Art and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. She currently lives and works in Lexington, KY. In her work she “explores the tension between the transformed and that which transforms, interrogating the ever-changing relationship between the ‘video light’ and the performed male within dancehall culture.” The Jamaican cultural influence on Patterson’s work is unique in its artistic expression, allowing for a very singular technique and product.

What is your creative process?

Hmmmm that’s hard to say sometimes. I am a mixed-media artist whose practice is grounded in the language of painting. I use drawing, painting, installation, and the performative. But for me the construction of my work is rooted in the language of painting. “Bella Krew” looks at gangs and other social masculine groups as an alternate family in working class communities.


"Brella Krew- From the Fambily Series"

“Brella Krew- From the Fambily Series”

“Bella Krew – From the Fambily Series,” 2012, by Ebony G. Patterson; mixed media jacquard tapestry; variable dimensions.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I draw inspiration from popular culture, current social issues, and of course my homeland Jamaica.

Ebony Patterson

“Invisible Presence – Bling Memories

The project is inspired by the pageantry of bling funerals, a growing custom in working class communities in Kingston, Jamaica, that fuses traditional funerary practices and popular cultural aesthetics. This practice is a powerful declaration of presence. ‘You may not have noticed me when I was here, but you will damn well notice me before I leave!’

Who are your artistic influences?

I admire the works of many artists but I can’t say that I am influenced by some more than others. I respect the practices of many, but I am extremely intrigued by dancehall culture and (black) popular culture as a whole. I enthralled by the use of such spaces and its cultural signage that allow for visibility, performativity and pageantry.

Ebony Patterson

Gully Godz in Conversation I

This work looks at the shifts in the Nationalist Period of painting in Jamaica and contemporary representations of domestic spaces. It examines the shifts in domestic space. The women are no longer home they are at work, and the men are on the street corners. The work entails a number of objects that are used often to validate one’s machismo. This work is in direct response to Barrington Watson’s “Conversations.”

Ebony Patterson

“Conversations,” Barrington Watson, 1981

Do you have a favorite of the work that you have produced? If so, please describe it.

Well not really a favorite but there is a work that I see as an important moment that is helping me to enhance new problems. ‘Where we found them,’ is a mixed-media hand embroidered and embellished jacquard tapestry with 100 two toned pink flowers and two pairs of shoes. It’s from the Dead Treez Series.

Ebony Patterson

Where We Found Them – Dead Treez

The images are of working class persons who have died under violent circumstances. It is because of the presence of popular cultural archetypes like social media, these horrific images, have made these otherwise invisible persons visible. The recurring question or fact of these persons’ socio-economic realities has remained with me. I question the accessibility and ownership of these images. The fact that social media has illuminated the presence of these otherwise invisible people.

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range

1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events

India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015

For more

Q&A with 1858 Prize Finalist, Andréa Keys Connell

Andréa Keys Connell, one of the six finalists for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, graduated with a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore in 2002 and went on to earn an MFA from Ohio University in Athens in 2009. She currently lives and works in Richmond, Virginia, where she is Clay Area Head and Assistant Professor in the Department of Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Connell produces monumental works in clay, which grapple with the complex ideas of human defenselessness, expressed through distorted, elongated, and fragmented bodies, many of which appear to be melting. These deeply moving installations suggest the unavoidable vulnerability of mankind.

What is your creative process?

That is such a big question because I do not think that my life is separate from my process. I am constantly observing, gathering, processing.. repeat… There is not much that enters my life that does not filter in some way into my analytical process. As for my physical making process… I had my “coming to clay” moment when I was a junior in college. Prior to that, I was focusing primarily on painting and photography. When I found clay, a connection between my brain, heart, and hands clicked on, and I never left the clay studio. When I think about it now it makes a lot of sense. My mother collected Majolica , Zsnolnay, and Herend and when I was little, I would play with the Zsolnay and Herend figurines as though they were dolls. When she would catch me playing with them she would take them and place them back on their shelves reminding me of their preciousness. Their “preciousness” only made them more valuable to me and the narratives that I would impose on them. I think I am also just more of a 3D thinker when it comes to making. It was such a relief to me when I found clay — to be able to discover a form through the ability to touch it in the round. It is such a physical relationship, and when making life size or larger figures, I find myself hugging and pressing up against, pushing and pulling on the clay — and all of this contact is imprinted on the surface of the clay…it’s a pretty delicious way of making…I build my pieces hollow, moving between coils, slabs, and pinching. Building hollow provides me with the ability to form my figures by pressing from the inside. This feels very natural to me in thinking about the body — the skin/clay is shaped by what is beneath it. In this case, it is the internal pressure that I am using to shape the skin — I find an endless supply of metaphors in this way of making and representing the figure.


From where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I have my go to sources that I am always pulling imagery and content from such as newspapers, photojournalism, monuments, figurines, statuary, fables, battlefields, graveyards, Romanticism, wind… and then there are the things that inspire me unexpectedly — those are usually the most powerful points of inspiration, when something just comes to me, changes me, makes me see something in new way. This is usually inspired by a specific space, a sound, a book, news, birth, death. I am fascinated by people and by how our life experiences shape who we become, and I believe that the body reveals far more than the mind wants it to — for this reason, I have a terrible habit of observing faces and bodies very closely and I draw great inspiration from watching the way someone moves their mouth when they talk or are on the verge of speaking. I love hands and feet, and their ability to tell a different story than the mouth. I love wrinkles and sags and bags, fingernails, toenails, and earlobes… all of the parts of the body that have the ability to speak volumes about an individual’s history.

Andrea Keys Connell

“Boreas,” 2014, by Andrea Keys Connell

Who are your artistic influences?

I find endless inspiration in Delacroix and Gérricault paintings — particularly The Barque of Danté and The Raft of the Medusa, and I have an endless list of artist whom I admire. I can however, name the three pieces of art that have moved me on a profound level, and whom I am deeply grateful for- The first is a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Girl With Broken Pitcher, 1891. This painting is located in the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. I came across it when I was 16 and I found myself completely enraptured by the mysterious story behind the girl’s gaze. I recognized something in myself in this girl and it was the first piece of art to move me to tears. The second is James Turrell’s Into the Light. I stood in the room with this floating square of light for a long time, trying very hard to understand how it existed. When I convinced myself that it was somehow projected onto the wall, another viewer moved her hand through the square. It is hard to describe this throttling shift of perspective, but it was so profound that my knees buckled. Come to think of it, I had a similar experience when I realized the poetics of Felix Gonzalez-Toress work. The third piece is a more recent piece that I believe to be one of the most achingly strong pieces I have seen in a very long time, Heather Cassil’s Becoming an Image. There are so many levels of conversation that lie within this piece that it actually renders me speechless. 


“Un-Home-Like,” 2010, by Andrea Keys Connell

“Un-Home-Like,” 2010, by Andrea Keys Connell


1858 prize finalist Andrea Keys Connell

The Barque of Dante, 1822, by Eugène Delacroix

Do you have a favorite of the work that you have produced? If so, please describe it.

I am very excited by the public art commission that I just completed for the Cleveland Public Library, Migration. The potential in public art is a very interesting challenge that I would love to continue to engage. Through this project and a previous commission, I have been able to work in a scale that never seemed possible before. I can see a space where I can truly challenge the notion of the monumental/monument.

1858 prize finalist Andrea Keys Connell

“Migration,” Cleveland Public Library, 2015, by Andrea Keys Connell

How did you find out about the 1858 Prize?

I have followed this prize over the last three years and am deeply honored to be amongst the finalists.

Read more about Andréa Keys Connell’s work here and on her website.

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range

1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events

India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015

Hearts Mend Hearts, Charleston Heals Through Art

Laura De La Maza and Dianne Tennyson Vincent reached out to the Gibbes Museum after the tragic shootings at the Mother Emanuel AME church. They wanted to do something to help the community heal and were in the beginning stages of formulating a plan so we suggested bringing in our colleagues from the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and Redux Studios to help brainstorm. Dianne had led an Art of Healing workshop for the Gibbes in 2012, in which students created mandalas, and following the tragedy, she spoke to us about offering this concept to the community as a way to heal. Laura has worked as an art teacher for years and uses mandalas in the classroom. In the last few weeks these women have worked tirelessly to create a series of free workshops to be offered at the Charleston County Public Library on Calhoun Street through the end of September. They were kind enough to answer a few questions about Hearts Mends Hearts.

How did you become involved with art as a healing endeavor?

Dianne: I became interested in art as a way to heal personally while going through a divorce. Intensely personal, I found it easier and more natural to draw what I experienced on an emotional level than to write or talk about it. I began painting again, which I had given up while married. I discovered the images that I was drawn to reflected what I was going through at the time emotionally: landscapes of paths, roads, and desert scenes. While trying to discover my next path, I stumbled into the field of art therapy and eventually went back to graduate school and became a registered art therapist.

Laura: I realized the healing power of art after going through Hurricane Hugo that destroyed my home. Creating mandalas in the evenings by candlelight as there was no electric power, helped calm me as I dealt with loss, natural devastation, and shock. I also began creating mandalas with students as we were all experiencing losses connected to this natural disaster. The very act of producing images or designs within the circle helped us heal from the devastation in our lives. We came together as a group and embraced another school that had been totally lost due to the hurricane. As we worked side by side for several months that school year, we created human healing circles as well as the visual metaphor called a mandala.

mandala workshop

A student’s mandala

Can you tell me more about these healing circles?

Dianne: Healing circles are mandalas. The word mandala comes from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. A mandala is a universal symbol or archetype used in all religions and cultures that means “healing circle,” “completeness” or “sacred circle.” Circles suggest unity, wholeness, completion, and eternity. Circles are universally associated with meditation, healing, and prayer.

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung used mandalas with his clients and himself. He saw the mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self,” and  “expressing the idea of a safe refuge, inner reconciliation and wholeness.”  Jung called mandalas “vessels” into which we project our psyche. Experienced consciously, this message from the unconscious is a means for restoration and growth.

mandala workshop

Students at work

What do you hope these workshops will do for the community?

Dianne: As a witness to the life changing effects of art therapy for over fourteen years as an art therapist, including two trips both to Bosnia and Haiti through the ArtReach Foundation and here at home while in private practice, I am still amazed of the power of making art. Art is a creative, non-threatening way to deal with trauma. Children are less articulate verbally, and are often afraid to express themselves, so the metaphors of art are a powerful, direct means to deal with the intense emotions of horror, loss, sadness, anger, and isolation. Increased self-awareness, decreased anxiety, energy and empowerment increases self-worth and confidence and helps reconcile emotional conflict.  Any age can and will benefit and each participant, one person at a time, will ultimately help heal our community.

Laura: I hope these workshops provide a platform for healing. Our first workshop was on Sunday, July 26th and we had a nice turnout with 16 participants of all ages and races. The attendees were engaged and all shared what they had created for display, and most engaged in the processing afterwards. At both sessions this week, attendees that knew one of the slain members at Emanuel AME came to the library to take part in the workshop. On Sunday, a mother and daughter came, and the young girl had visited the West Ashley branch of the library often, having made the acquaintance of Cynthia Hurd. This 4-year-old asked her mother to share what her drawing was about. It was very moving to hear the mom recount their visits to the library, and their conversations with Miss Cynthia, and how she had encouraged the little girl to love books and to visit the library.

Free Hearts Mend Hearts drop-in sessions are offered at CCPL Main Library on Calhoun Street through the end of September. They are designed to help individuals process their feelings and express emotions in a safe environment.

Sundays from 2-4:30pm

Tuesdays from 5:30-7pm

Thursdays from 5:30-7pm

For more information visit their website at HeartsMendHearts.com

Dianne Tennyson Vincent, MAT, ATR, Registered Art Therapist

Dianne has been creating art since she began painting at age 12. Graduating in Nursing from the Southern Adventist University when she was only 19, she quickly realized life as an OR nurse was not for her, so she went to the College of Charleston for her bachelors in Studio Art and then to the University of South Caroline for her Masters in Art Education. Odd, though fortuitous events landed her a job as Art Therapist at Fenwick Hall Hospital, (a psychiatric-substance abuse hospital.) and from there she went on to complete 30 graduate and two thousand clinical hours to earn her requirements to be a registered art therapist with the American Art Therapy Association.

She has taught art privately since she was 19, and as an elementary, middle and high school art instructor for the Charleston County School District for 14 years. She now runs her Art Connects Art School with her husband while maintaining her private art therapy practice in Mount Pleasant. She promotes art therapy locally through an ongoing series of presentations geared for both professional mental health care givers and the general public, and has done numerous mandala workshops to familiarize the public with the healing power of the mandala.

Laura De La Maza, National Board Certified Teacher, Art

Expressing art through teaching, art making, and creating visual stories defines the work of Laura De La Maza. Influenced by the Caribbean color and landscape where she grew up, De La Maza expresses life’s journey through mandalas, mixed media, and symbol. The spiritual connection expressed in her images defines her art teaching and personal work. De La Maza teaches high school art in the Lowcountry.

Summer Art Camp from our Intern’s Point of View

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at College of Charleston

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at College of Charleston

As a college student majoring in Studio Art and Art History, interning at the Gibbes Museum’s Summer Art Camp seemed like the perfect opportunity to excite young minds with art. Growing up, my favorite teachers were my art teachers, and getting the chance to influence a young child was very appealing to me. The camp instructor for this summer, Leonora Dechtiar, provided campers with stimulating and fun projects to explore their creativity.

welcome to our Art Show!

The first of three camp themes was “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” During these weeks, the campers learned about art from different countries such as Egypt, Brazil, China, Morocco, Australia, and India. We started our day by fastening the seatbelts to our pretend airplane on the classroom carpet and landing in a foreign country. Campers were excited to learn about the different art and cultures of all the places we “visited” before stamping their passports after each journey. Campers’ projects included Brazilian Carnival masks, drums, and maracas, African plaster masks, Egyptian Canopic Jars, Indian Mandalas, Japanese Kites, Chinese Dragons, and Australian Dot Paintings.

summer art camp 2015

Campers working with Acrylic to make their own Chinese Dragons

The second theme of camp was “Stories and Puppets.” During these weeks, campers would listen to stories and create artworks inspired by themes and characters in the story. At the end of the week, campers performed a play of The Rainbow Fish, which featured each camper’s uniquely designed fish. I couldn’t help but be impressed as the kids so excitedly delivered their lines perfectly for the room full of parents.

summer art camp 2015

Rainbow fish puppets

Our last theme of camp, “Art and Movement,” was probably most enjoyable for me personally. Leonora instructed the kids in yoga before each project (which proved to be very beneficial and effective in calming the campers down) to focus them on their artwork. Projects created included foam puppets, needle felting, body tracing, and Jackson Pollock inspired splatter painting (which, I must say…the kids thoroughly enjoyed). Throughout the week, campers practiced their yoga moves set to fun children’s songs, and on Friday they performed these impressive, entertaining yoga dances for their parents.

Summer art camp 2015

Leonora instructing campers in their morning yoga

Throughout each week, the children were thrilled to go on field trips to surrounding areas, such as the multiple art galleries on Queen Street and the Pineapple Fountain. After viewing the artwork on display at galleries such as Robert Lange Studios, Horton Hayes Fine Art, Anglin Smith Fine Art, Valentino’s Pottery, and The Atrium, the kids were noticeably more inspired to spend time creating artwork.

summer art camp 2015

Field Trip to local galleries

Working so closely with children eager to fill their hands with paint or clay or anything else has heightened my interest in the art making process and has reminded me of the childlike enthusiasm that every artist should employ when creating art!

summer camp 2015

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at the College of Charleston

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, 2015 Short List of Finalists

On June 15, 2015 the Gibbes Museum of Art and Society 1858 announced the short list of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. The $10,000 annual prize recognizes a Southern artist who has distinguished him or herself in any media and has made a distinct contribution to the production and understanding of Southern art. The prize, originally given as the Factor prize by Mallory and Elizabeth Factory in 2007, is now overseen by Society 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art’s young patron auxiliary group. The Society 1858 Board of Directors has spent the last few years working to rejuvenate and rebrand the prize, which now has its own website (1858prize.org) and helps the museum to establish long-term relationships with its prize-winning artists.

This year, over 275 artists from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia submitted their work for consideration for the prize. Six artists have been chosen for the short list of finalists, from which one winner will be chosen and announced on September 17 during an event hosted by Society 1858 and the Gibbes Museum of Art. The six artists who have been selected are Aldwyth, Andrea Keys Connell, Kevin Jerome, Everson, George Jenne, Deborah Luster, and Ebony G. Patterson. These six impressive artists were selected by a panel of judges including Charles Ailstock, Society 1858 Board member; Jamieson Clair, Society 1858 Board President; Sonya Clark, artist and 2014 Prize winner; Miranda Lash, Curator of Contemporary Art, The Speed Art Museum; Cary Levine, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Mark Sloan, Director and Chief Curator, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art; and Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions at the Gibbes Museum of Art. This year’s finalists include artists who work in a variety of mediums, from photography and film to assemblage, sculpture, and mixed-media installations.

2015 Finalist Bios

South Carolina artist Aldwyth has worked in relative seclusion for several decades. She creates intricate collages and assemblages, often monumental in scale, from found objects, appropriated images, text, and other elements. Aldwyth was recently honored with a major one person traveling exhibition organized by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston.

Secrets of my Mind, 2015, by Aldwyth

Secrets of my Mind, 2015, by Aldwyth

Andrea Keys Connell
Sculptor Andrea Keys Connell creates figurative works that challenge conventional notions of monuments, statuary, and figurines. Using clay with other mixed media, her work has a strong narrative and emotive quality. Keys Connell lives in Richmond, Virginia where she serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Un-Home-Like, 2010, by Andra keys Connell

Un-Home-Like, 2010, by Andra keys Connell

Kevin Jerome Everson
Kevin Jerome Everson’s films utilize both scripted and documentary footage to examine the everyday lives of working class African Americans and other people of African descent. A prolific filmmaker, Everson has created both feature-length and short films characterized by a subtle, poetic quality. His work is included in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and is currently on view in the museum’s inaugural exhibition.

Ninety-Three, 2008, by Kevin Jerome Everson

Ninety-Three, 2008, by Kevin Jerome Everson

George Jenne
George Jenne is a video artist who combines moving images with the spoken word to create uniquely narrative films. His work explores the inner psyche of his characters, revealing the complex ideas and emotions underlying each individual. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Jenne currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Spooky Understand (installation detail), 2014, by George Jenne

Spooky Understand (installation detail), 2014, by George Jenne

Deborah Luster
Luster, who lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana, turned to photography as a means to cope with the murder of her mother. She has created thousands of powerful, haunting portraits of prisoners housed in Louisiana. Her recent body of work captures desolate landscapes in New Orleans where murders have occurred.

"One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, 1998-2003, by Deborah Luster

One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, 1998-2003, by Deborah Luster

Ebony G. Patterson
The work of mixed-media artist Ebony G. Patterson investigates the complex relationships between gender, politics, beauty, race, and ritual in contemporary Jamaican culture. Her artistic practice combines painting, textiles, and installation work, often in large scale. A native of Jamaica, Patterson lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky, where she serves as an Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky.

Wata Marassa-Beyond the Bladez, 2014 by Ebony G. Patterson

Wata Marassa-Beyond the Bladez,
2014 by Ebony G. Patterson

“Seeing the prize grow this year—not only in the number of applications, but also in the level of diversity and range of artistic medium—has been like a dream come true for Society 1858,” says Society 1858 President Jamieson Clair.

To learn more about the prize please visit 1858prize.org.

White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, Part II

This is part II of an interview with Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration at the Gibbes Museum and current President of the South Carolina Federation of Museums.

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The first SCFM White Gloves Gang (named after the protective white gloves many collections professionals wear when handling fragile museum objects,) was held at the Georgetown County Museum as part of the 2012 SCFM Annual Meeting. While I had a general model of how the program should work (based on the Reinforcement Crew) in many ways I can admit now that I was flying by the seat of my pants! I was well aware that our first WGG project was bound to have a few hiccups, but we were not going to learn how to do it unless we tried!

white gloves gang

The WGG working on textiles

Planning the first WGG included finding a host institution and explaining what exactly we wanted to accomplish. This involved building a trusting relationship with the staff at the Georgetown County Museum (GCM) since I basically asked them if my group of volunteers could have carte blanche access to their collections and exhibitions for an entire day! Then Director, Jill Santopietro, could not have been more gracious or enthusiastic about being the first WGG “test case.” After making initial contacts, I completed several site visits to GCM and worked with Jill to identify potential collection and exhibition projects that could be completed in a day. Next I had to advertise the project and gather a volunteer force; I also solicited vendors to donate archival supplies…I don’t think I even had a real budget for the first WGG. My wonderful friends at Hollinger Metal Edge graciously donated supplies for the first WGG. The shipment of hundreds of dollars of donated materials meant so much to the GCM who did not have any budget for these types of essential preservation materials. Other tasks included setting the agenda for project day, communicating the plan to our group of ten collections volunteers, dividing the group into teams, laying out each project and making sure volunteers had the necessary tools and supplies. It was a long day, but I loved every second of it and those first WGG volunteers made incredible progress on exhibits and collections at the GCM. Teams “freshened” exhibits and added protective archival barriers between casework and historic artifacts, created padded hangers on which to store and display fragile textiles, vacuumed (with a special museum-quality vacuum) historic christening gowns to remove layers of dust gathered from being on constant display, created storage containers for objects that needed a “rest” from display, adjusted light levels to better protect light-sensitive, fragile objects and so much more!! After this first experience in 2012, it was evident that the SCFM White Gloves Gang was a viable program to be built and developed.

Tell us something you’ve learned about the challenges of small museums through your work with the White Gloves Gang.

I have learned that all museums, whether large or small, matter to the communities they serve. The collections that small museums maintain are exceedingly important to the people who donated them and the stories they tell are the historical fabric of the town, county or region the museum represents. However, many small museums do not have the appropriate staff or budget to adequately care for or exhibit the objects that are so important to people they serve. A museum’s sole staff member may be the Director, often an individual with excellent administrative experience and leadership skills but minimal (if any) training in collection and exhibition management. In many cases these sole employees spend the majority of their time devising programming and membership initiatives that will ensure the museum can keep the lights on and doors open to survive another day! They know instinctively that the collections and exhibitions need attention, but there is very little time, money or training to devote to the objects that are the very reason for a museums’ existence.

working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

The WGG working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

However, the SCFM White Gloves Gang program is an excellent resource for these small museum staffs that need collections help; I have seen the benefits and inspiration our projects provide first-hand. The WGG is a tangible manifestation of SCFM’s mission to serve, represent, advocate and promote the best interests of South Carolina museums; the program educates small museums in ways they can make simple, often inexpensive changes to better preserve, and promote the collections they house and the missions they endeavor to uphold. The staffs at all WGG host sites have been grateful for the support and have let us know that watching collections professionals devote an entire day to the display and storage of the museum’s objects was inspirational; in many cases our work resulted in the Director taking future steps to raise funds for a collections manager or to hire an exhibition designer to assist with the way stories are conveyed.  These small, devoted staffs are stretched thin in terms of resources and I view it as SCFM’s responsibility to reach out and help however we can. The WGG provides a statewide network of support and supplies for collections management as well as access to collections professionals that a host site can forever turn to for future advice!

What are the future plans for the White Gloves Gang and or how will this program grow?

SCFM announced this past month that the WGG will be hitting the road! I have wanted to expand the program beyond our annual meeting for some time and have finally moved forward with this endeavor. SCFM member institutions can now apply for a day of WGG services and we hope to send volunteer teams out to complete at least two WGG projects per year in addition to the project at the annual meeting. Our WGG volunteer corps currently numbers around thirty collections professionals from across the state and is growing daily. My goal is to provide any South Carolina museum that desires a day of white glove services the assistance they need! I now have a wonderful White Gloves Gang co-chair, Melissa Jolley, Curator at the Savannah River Site, who assists me with organization and management of each project and the WGG volunteers. What fun (and a relief) it has been to share the responsibility and excitement of connecting people and projects with one of my SCFM peers! I have also recently seen an influx of museum studies students and non-collections professionals joining the WGG volunteer group; I love this! We pair those that want to learn about collections management with the seasoned professionals and in this way, each WGG project becomes an opportunity to train others and learn from peers…its win, win!

Recently the SCFM Executive Committee voted unanimously to appropriate funds to the SCFM WGG thereby officially adding the program to the annual budget. I will continue to work with our generous partners in the archival supply industry to provide donations of necessary project supplies and hope to eventually secure a lead sponsor to ensure the program’s future (naming opportunity anyone???) I will continue to engage South Carolina museum professionals to volunteer and participate in the program and encourage all SCFM members to get involved and give back. I am so proud of the SCFM White Gloves initiative and all those who have participated and supported us over the years. I am hopeful that our program will continue to grow and will serve as a model program for other state museum associations. South Carolina museums matter! Their collections and stories are important and SCFM wants to support these museums in any way it can!

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits at the South Carolina Federation of Museums (SCFM) conference.

Thank you Zinnia for taking the time to share this story with us! For more information about volunteering with the White Gloves Gang or in requesting a visit from the WGG, visit the SCFM website.



A Community United, a conversation with organizer Mickey Bakst


A Community United

A Community United

Mickey Bakst, General Manager of the Charleston Grill, has done it again. He has reached out to the Charleston food and beverage community to ask for their help in honoring the victims, families and congregation of Mother Emanuel AME church with a gathering bringing together the people of Charleston. The event will be at the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel on July 9, 2015. Silent auction bidding on a variety of luxury items will be available to supporters around the country beginning on July 3 at Noon and ending Midnight on July 9.

You have a passion for philanthropy and for helping those in need. You are the mastermind behind successful charities including Chefs Across America, Benefit for Katrina, and Dine for Nine. In 2014, the Gibbes Museum presented you with the James S. Gibbes Philanthropy award to recognize those efforts. Can you tell me where that passion came from?

Mickey Bakst

Angela Mack presenting Mickey Bakst with the 2014 James Shoolbred Gibbes Philanthropy Award at the Annual Meeting.

Honestly I am not sure. I was once asked why do you do those things and my response was “why not?” It seems to me we all have gifts that would enable us to help others around us. The question becomes not can you but will you? I feel strongly that I have been given some certain gifts and I feel a responsibility to use those gifts as effectively as I can. There are many people who have amazing abilities to help others but choose not to. I choose to!

Tell us about the A Community United event. What restaurants are involved? Share some details about the silent auction. 

There are over 50 restaurants and beverage purveyors involved so to list them would be a bit tedious. All of the major restaurants in town are involved. The event will be a stroll around somewhat like we do for the Gibbes Street Party. The program will consist of the Mark Sterbank Spiritual Hymn group as well as a gospel group called the Low Country Voices. We will also have members of the Emanuel victim’s families, as well as other members of the church. We have given the church 200 free invitations. Reverend Goff, who did Reverend Pinckney’s service will preside over the event. We also have some pretty powerful presentations planned. Finally there will be over 200 items at a silent and on line auction so please tell your members to bring their phones!

What do you hope will come out of this event?

A little help for the family members and some unity for this community! This fund will donate 100% of the proceeds directly to the families.

In order to bid in the silent auction, you must register a credit card. If at the end of the auction, you wish to pay with check or cash, you will be given the option to do so. To make a DONATION, text 3000 to 843-606-5995 and follow the text prompts.

A Community United

Thursday July 9

6:30- 9:30

Charleston Place Grand Ballroom

Tickets $200

To purchase tickets and to view the silent auction items, please go to this website.


The White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, part 1

How long have you been involved in SCFM?

Though originally from Chicago, Illinois, I have been part of the South Carolina Museum community since my grad school days in the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina almost 15 years ago! While life’s twists and turns took me out of South Carolina for a few years, I returned in 2001 and have been at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston since 2003 where I manage the art collection and oversee logistics for the museum’s active exhibition and loan programs.  At the request of my friend Jill Koverman, a true force in South Carolina museums who sadly passed away several years ago, I joined the South Carolina Federation of Museum’s (SCFM) Professional Development Committee (PDC) in 2010 and have been involved with the organization ever since.

Can you describe why it’s important as a museum professional to have an active role in organizations like SCFM?

Professional development opportunities and responsibilities have played a pivotal role in my personal career growth since my entrée into the museum field so many years ago. Our profession is constantly changing. New standards for collections care, exhibition design, curatorial research, digitization of information, use of social media, educational programming, membership tracking, and every other aspect of museum work are being discussed daily on list-servs, blogs, and at various gatherings of museum professionals. Museum staff need high levels of knowledge and expertise to continue to add value to the communities they serve. Playing an active role in professional organizations, and attending conferences and relevant workshops provides opportunities for peer engagement, expansion of one’s knowledge base, and information that can be put into practice immediately. I am constantly beating the professional development drum about the importance of making time and finding funds to attend professional training opportunities that are essential to career development and remind us that our individual work contributes to something larger including the preservation and promotion of the humanities! As I say often (to anyone who will listen,) nobody will ever care about your professional growth as much as you do!

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The Registrars Committee (RC) of the American Alliance of Museums has been operating a similar program called the Reinforcement Crew since 2007.  This annual event offers expertise, people-power and support to museums and organizations that need assistance with collections-based projects, and coincides with the AAM Annual Meeting. I have friends who were instrumental in developing the Reinforcement Crew and have always been an advocate of seasoned museum professionals “giving back” to the field. I was intrigued with the concept and as I became more involved in the South Carolina museum community, it became clear that a volunteer program similar to the Reinforcement Crew could provide real benefit to the many small museums and cultural centers that dot our state. Once I was in a leadership position and had an opportunity to move the idea for a White Gloves Gang program forward, I went for it! SCFM’s leadership has a long history of embracing program ideas suggested by the membership…even my crazy ideas. That being said, one lesson you learn early on is that if you want your program to have legs, you, the idea person, have to put in the work to get it off the ground!

Stay tuned for next week’s part two of the White Gloves Gang….

Lighting the Gibbes Museum, Q&A with Anita Jorgensen

Anita Jorgensen, IESNA, IALD, LEED, LC has been practicing architectural lighting design in New York for over twenty years. Her background in art history and theatrical lighting design brings a strong sense of aesthetics and drama to her lighting approach. Her hands-on experience gained from extensive exhibition lighting design work translates into specifications for lighting systems which not only meet the immediate lighting requirements, but also provide for durability, ease of maintenance, and long term flexibility. Anita was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work with the Gibbes Museum renovation.

2015 Gibbes Renderings

Gibbes Museum of Art, Preliminary façade lighting

How did you learn about the Gibbes Museum? I worked with Jeff Daly at The Metropolitan Museum for a number of years while he was the Head of the Department. When Jeff opened Jeff Daly Design, we worked on several projects together including: the Ringling Museum of Art; the annual Winter Antiques Show in New York; Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, RI; and others. In 2012 Jeff suggested I visit the Gibbes Museum and discuss its lighting needs with Angela Mack. Angela brought AJLD on board and I am happy to report that the Gibbes renovation has been a fabulous project with a fantastic team!

How did you get involved in lighting design? Give us a little information about what led you down this career path.

While studying Fine Arts and Art History in undergraduate school, I became aware of the work of renowned theatrical lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, who has designed for extensively for dance, drama and opera. Her work inspired me to pursue a career in theatrical lighting design. During my graduate studies at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, I became intrigued with the field of architectural lighting design. After five years with architectural lighting design firm Fisher Marantz Stone, who is best known for designing “Towers of Light” after the 911 twin towers incident, an opportunity arose to work as a lighting designer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Design Department that I could not pass up. The projects I was involved with at the Metropolitan ranged from temporary exhibitions, large-scale renovations of entire wings, extensive custom case work, as well as exterior façade lighting.

After working on staff at the Metropolitan for a number of years, I began my own practice, Anita Jorgensen Lighting Design (AJLD).

What are the challenges with lighting museums? Please give examples. How can good lighting transform museum space?

One of the great challenges of designing lighting for museums is balancing art conservation standards with visual clarity. Among the many aspects to consider are the control of daylight while balancing supplemental glare free electric light. When designing the new lighting system for the East Gallery at The Frick Collection, which included both daylight and electric light, we completed an extensive mockup process to determine the optimal method for controlling the quantity of daylight entering the galleries in combination with supplemental LED lighting to highlight the artwork. The mockup process gives the team an opportunity to actually see and test the results of our research findings. We did the same for the Gibbes Museum where we reviewed the ability of various lighting sources to render paintings accurately. During a side by side lighting comparison in the galleries, it was unanimously decided that the track mounted luminaires would use 3,000 Kelvin LED sources. LED lamps have the great advantage of emitting no ultra violet radiation, consuming only 10 watts each as opposed to 50 watts and last more than seven times longer than halogen.

FRICK East Gallery

FRICK Museum East Gallery

Another important consideration when designing for museums are issues of conservation. For example all of the windows need to be properly fitted with screens and filtering film to reduce the level of light entering the galleries and to block the damaging ultraviolet portion of the incoming daylight.

The second source of illumination in galleries is typically a fully flexible overhead track lighting system which is often the primary source for lighting art. For the first time, the track lighting in the new Gibbes Museum renovation will be energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) track mounted luminaires. After all of the artwork is installed, the gallery lighting will go through a final fine-tuning process. During this stage, the exact lighting intensity levels for each object will be specified.

We also recently completed an exterior night-time lighting mockup for the garden where we reviewed lighting the garden with cool light mimicking moonlight vs. warm candle light effect. We also demonstrated illuminating the trees from below (uplighting) vs. locating lights up in the trees pointed downwards filtering through the leaves that created patterns of light on the ground much like the light coming from a full moon.

What can the community expect to ‘see’ with the renovated Gibbes?

The visitor will be able to see the fabulous Gibbes Museum art collection rendered in a crisp new glare-free light. The galleries will be brighter and more daylight will enter the building giving the visitor a greater connection to the outside.

Below is a listing of Anita’s more memorable projects:

  • Frick West Gallery, East Gallery: designed a new lighting system that integrates invisibly with the museum’s landmark interiors
West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

  • Metropolitan Museum Great Hall: recreation of the original McKim Meade and White pendants
  • Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets: a conference center and trading floor

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