Art on the River Sets Stage for Economic Expansion
A new chapter in the long and colorful history of Jefferson opened Saturday with the unveiling of three public art installations Saturday.
The event culminated two weeks of activity by artists Sherry Owens and Art Shirer premiered their new works, which are on public display in the Park on Big Cypress Bayou. The three artworks are:
1. above and beyond – which intersects the boardwalk of the Port Jefferson Nature Center, creating an elevated sightline in two directions using 900 pounds of river rocks.
2. the forest echoes with laughter –a suspended construction incorporating miles of wire and thousands of glass bits that travel through the woods, this piece visually connects two locations on the boardwalk. The sunlight plays on the surface of the glass as it shimmers through the trees.
3. oodles of doodles – accompanying the first two works is an installation of objects produced during a creative workshop with local children.
Richard H. Collins, president and founder of Collins Academy, worked with the City of Jefferson to create the Artists-in-Residence Program. This first-time program built on their vision to transform the future of the city’s quality of life by offering an active and rich cultural program in conjunction with the “Art on the River” initiative.
The Artists-in-Residence program is a significant part of Collins’ multi-year reinvestment effort to bring art to Jefferson and to restore historical properties. Through revitalization efforts and bringing world-class art to The Port Jefferson History and Nature Center, the intention is to instill the values of lifelong learning, create a renewed sense of community, and draw tourists – and enhanced economic strength – to East Texas.
“Jefferson transformed in the late 1860’s into a cosmopolitan town,” said Collins. “Now it’s a historic destination where one can become immersed in the natural and cultural heritage of the past. Art on the River and the artists who come here will only increase interest in Jefferson. We believe our efforts will make Jefferson a leader in both ecological and historical preservation, and community involvement.”
Artists in Residence Sherri Owens and Art Shirer speak to the crowd at the official premier Saturday of their sculptures.
Internationally renowned artists, Sherry Owens and Art Shirer, worked collaboratively on the artworks, which are both complex and intricate. This is their 18th collaborative project together.
The artists arrived in Jefferson on Sept. 15 to begin two weeks of work. The pair used the natural resources of the Port Jefferson History and Nature Center. The process to determine the sculpture the duo would create involved walking in the woods, measuring distances, and identifying a variety of viewing points from which the public could see pieces.
Shirer explained, “The work is a site-specific installation and it didn’t exist until it was placed there – it’s going to grow there. “
During the two weeks of work in Jefferson, Owens and Shirer invited the public to come and watch them work. Some spectators even had opportunities to help the artists. “We wanted people to be a part of this art, as it will be theirs to enjoy,” she said.
“The vision is that the sculpture Art and Sherry created will draw crowds to the park and help put Jefferson even more firmly on the map as a tourist destination,” said Collins. “For Jefferson, a small town with unmatched charm, attracting tourists means more economic activity, which means a stronger economy and a brighter future.”
Collins Academy and Education
Building on the mission of the Collins Academy, Collins is reinvesting in Jefferson to promote arts and education for regional youth. The Artists-in-Residence program provides art enrichment education to public school students and gives educators an opportunity to bring the classroom outside for direct interaction with artists.
Owens and Shirer wanted students to collaborate with them on elements for the finished sculptures, so entire families will come to see the art in which their children had a part. Art students in the third and fourth grades from Jefferson Elementary School created objects for the piece entitled “oodles of doodles.” Activa Products, Inc. with corporate offices and its plant in nearby Marshall, Texas, donated the clay the children used to create their works of art. Art on the River and Collins Academy expressed gratitude for Activa’s generous donation.
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