When Columbia artist SaBrina Jeffcoat had the idea for a multi-artist exhibition, she didn’t fool around.
“I literally developed this idea about a week and a half ago,” she tells Free Times six days before the event. “Part of the whole thing was to prove a point, that you can plan a well-executed event in less than six months. Everyone I work with, they need eight months to plan, like, a mixer.”
The results of her efforts will be available for all to see when Farther: An Exhibition, debuts at an unlikely (or at least unfamiliar) venue — The Art House, located at 1426 Hampton Street.
The show, funded by Jeffcoat and a matching grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission, will feature “clothing, photography, performances, site-specific installations and soundscapes created by over 20 artists,” according to a Facebook post.
So how did she get that many people together in mere days? Three years of networking, which all came together when she started reaching out to artists for an event that will display their edgiest work.
“It is a showing of artists that I have curated, based on people that I’ve met in the last few years,” she says. “I picked, or offered spaces, to artists who vary pretty greatly.”
Jeffcoat — owner of Royal African Company Ltd. Co., her Southern-flavored, Afrocentric art business — is one of a handful of current occupants at Farther’s Hampton Street venue, which has long provided studio space for local artists.
“It just recently became the Art House after we did an open studio, like an open house, not too long ago,” Jeffcoat explains. “One of the artists in the back renamed it The Art House. People really don’t know a lot about it. They don’t know what’s in it, who’s in it, what’s going on, so I thought [naming it] The Art House was a great way to kind of place it.”
The key to the Saturday exhibition is in the title. Theoretically, the work on display is all about pushing limits and exploring unfamiliar media.
“The prompt was that the artist had to bring something that was experimental for them as an artist,” Jeffcoat says. “No matter what you work in, I wanted people to only present the things that they’ve been thinking about working on. The works in progress, those sorts of things. … The common theme between all the artists is [that] this is pushing beyond what they’ve done before as a creative.”
At its core, there is also the idea of what artists might be able to accomplish together. Jeffcoat, a College of Charleston graduate who has also done further study at the Savannah College of Art and Design, contacted artists last fall for a private research project. The title posed a question familiar to many struggling artists: “Why Do Art in the Bible Belt?”
“Some 140 people responded,” she says, “and I found that 72 percent of them needed more non-monetary support, like spaces and galleries and things like that, and about 77 percent of them needed more financial support, as far as actual money.”
Jeffcoat hoped to use the project for part of a graduate school application, as well as to make a presentation at a Yale conference on African-American research. When that fell through, the show became a back-up plan — and a means of continuing her research.
“Right now I’m looking at creators’ ideal income, what tax bracket makes you successful as an artist, the perception of their political representation and then also their relationship to the larger communities that they live in,” she offers. “How do they align with their communities? Do they see themselves as spokespersons for their community? And how do the venues relate to the needs, financial and otherwise, of their communities?”
Given the spontaneous planning and low-level publicity of Farther, Jeffcoat isn’t banking on making it a recurring event. Instead, she likes the idea of a singular and intimate show.
“When I’m at something really cool, no one will know,” she says. “I’m not taking pictures, I’m not tweeting about it, I’m not making live videos. It’s just me there experiencing it.”
What: Farther: An Exhibition
Where: The Art House, 1426 Hampton St.
When: Saturday, May 11, 6-11 p.m.