FSU professors create community, accessible art with collaborative project

Art professors Carolyn Henne and Judy Rushin are reinventing the traditional definition of an art gallery with their art collective, Commabox .
Art professors Carolyn Henne and Judy Rushin are reinventing the traditional definition of an art gallery with their art collective, Commabox .

Florida State University art professors Carolyn Henne, and Judy Rushin believe art fosters community and should be for everyone. Those beliefs sparked the creation of the art collective, Commabox.

Commabox reinvents the traditional definition of an art gallery and serves as a mobile and obtainable way for people to interact with art. Through Commabox, artists produce limited edition boxes — about the size of small priority shipping box — full of artifacts and objects that are small enough to be viewed anywhere.

Rushin, associate professor of art and co-director of the Commabox project, initially created the project with the mission that art can occur anywhere and anytime.

“It started off as a small collection of objects in a box that we wanted to make readily accessible and available to the public as an alternative platform of display,” Rushin said. “In other words, we’re making art accessible outside of galleries and museums.”

The forthcoming second volume of Commabox, “Fragments,” contains art objects and written work from local, national and internationally recognized artists. The contents allow each artist to explore their own interpretation of the fragmentation concept.

The inspiration for the “Fragments” theme came about while Rushin and Commabox artist Lorrie Fredette were exploring ancient Cuneiform tablets in FSU’s special collections and archives. Henne and Rushin both felt the word “fragmentation” held great depth, and with this theme the artists could explore anything from archaeological fragmentation to identity fragmentation.

With the theme decided, the process of creating the box’s contents began. During this time, Henne and Rushin recognized the importance of connection and the power a project like Commabox has to bring people together.

“We very quickly realized that we were creating community through comma, so the pop-up shows and exhibitions where we feature the artists who are in the box are all part of what comma is,” Rushin said.

Commabox's volume II,
Commabox's volume II,
Commabox's volume II,

The collaborative nature of Commabox gave Henne and Rushin the opportunity to expand the local art community by inviting other artists to participate in the project.

“The idea of deepening relationships is very important in the art world, so it wasn’t just about networking and meeting people, but really about establishing connections outside of Tallahassee,” Rushin said. “Commabox benefits Tallahassee and our local community, and also it benefits us and the university.”

Henne and Rushin hope to grow the already vibrant local art culture and to allow more individuals to experience art through Commabox by facilitating connections between people and starting important conversations among the viewers.

“We are still very committed to creating community within Tallahassee,” said Henne, professor of fine arts and co-director of Commabox.

Commabox is housed in the FSU Facility for Art Research, also known as FAR. The focus of FAR is to establish a cooperative space where artists from FSU and outside the university can connect while creating together.

“It’s all about collaborative projects,” Rushin said. “There are four projects housed there now, one is Commabox. We have space for people around the college who come and are invited for a year to work. It’s about providing a platform for collaboration.”

Working in the vibrant environment that FAR provides allowed Henne and Rushin to expand Commabox and has them looking toward the future.

“Volume III is in a prototype version now,” Henne said. “In January, we will start the production of volume III, and then we’ll start to talk to different people about volume IV. There are going to be a lot of really interesting elements, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re very excited.”

Henne and Rushin plan to continue innovating new ideas and pieces with each volume of Commabox to enrich the local art community and to create accessible art for all.

“The audience is everyone. We’re committed to this idea that everybody should be able to enjoy,” Rushin said.

Commabox will celebrate the launch of the second volume, “Fragments,” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Happy Motoring, 1215 South Adams St.

For more information about Commabox, visit: https://commabox.art.