Interactive Exhibition Pays Tribute to Blues Music


Nichole Mayer/San Jacinto Times

A life cast of legendary harmonica player James Cotton is part of the exhibit on display in the art gallery on the South Campus until Oct. 19.

Art and music lovers alike still have time to catch A Cast of Blues in the art gallery of San Jacinto College South Campus before the exhibit wraps up Oct. 19 with a closing reception.

The exhibition features multiple interactive elements, most notably touchable resin-cast masks of legendary Blues artists, that pay tribute to the musical tradition of the Mississippi Delta region.

Comparing to the average art exhibit, gallery curator Jeffrey McGee said, “That’s not something that is often found in a gallery or museum.”

“It provides the unique experience of being allowed and encouraged to touch, feel, and play to a gallery setting,” McGee said.

However, the exhibit got off to a difficult start. It was scheduled to open Sept. 1 but was delayed a week because of Hurricane Harvey. Mary Smith, the lab supervisor for the Art and Design department, said this posed a challenge for the gallery.

“The hurricane forced the original opening for the show, with a performance by legendary Houston jazz musicians, to be canceled,” Smith said. But, the closing reception will feature live music with a performance by the San Jac Jazz Trio.

According to McGee, the show incorporates multiple disciplines outside of art and design including academic areas like history, music, humanities, sociology, and psychology. In addition to masks, the interactive exhibit features a listening station, traditional Blues musical instruments, photography, a selection of books, and DVD documentaries meant for visitors to touch, use, and absorb.

“I hope the exhibit will create a curiosity to learn about and listen to more Blues,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, the touchable face molds were created by visually-impaired artist, Sharon McConnell-Dickerson. “By touching the artworks, you get a better sense of how she would approach creating these unique pieces,” McGee said. 

Featured pieces include masks of many musicians ranging from Ruth Brown to James Cotton; Cotton’s life cast being McGee’s favorite.

“There is an asymmetry to his face that fascinates me,” he added, “and he looks like a person you could have a fascinating conversation with.”

McGee said he encourages the San Jac community to visit the show, both for personal enrichment and entertainment. He said, “I want to provide an experience that you will tell your friends about.”

The closing reception for A Cast of Blues takes place between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the art gallery of the Marie Spence Flickinger Arts Center (S15) on the South Campus. Admission to the exhibition and reception are free of charge.