Public Invited to “Celebrate the Premiere!” on Sept. 29

JEFFERSON, Texas – September 20, 2018 – A pair of renowned artists will premiere three public art installations in the Park on Big Cypress Bayou located in Jefferson, Texas. The event is slated for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 when the public is invited to gather under the tent adjacent to adjacent to McGarity’s Saloon No. 61, located at 208 W. Dallas Street in Jefferson for a celebration.

The event will culminate two weeks of activity in the park as artists Sherry Owens and Art Shirer work collaboratively on the installations, which will be both “intricate and complex.”

Richard H. Collins, the President and Founder of the Collins Academy worked with the City of Jefferson to create the Artists-in-Residence Program.  This first-time program builds 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 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.”

The Artists: Complex & Intricate

The internationally renowned artists, Sherry Owens and Art Shirer, work collaboratively on pieces that are both complex and intricate. This will be their 18th collaborative project together.

The artists arrived in Jefferson on Sept. 15 to begin their work, and are living in Jefferson while completing their installation. The pair will use the natural resources of the Port Jefferson History and Nature Center, literally “over the river and through the woods,” they say. 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 their yet-to-be created pieces. Their final creations will be premiered to the public on September 29, 2018.

The three installations will be:

  • above and beyond – This will be the first installation encountered and it will intersect the boardwalk of the Port Jefferson Nature Center, creating an elevated sightline in two directions using 900 pounds of river rocks.
  • the forest echoes with laughter – This work will be a suspended construction incorporating miles of wire and thousands of glass bits that will travel through the woods, visually connecting two locations on the boardwalk. The sunlight will play on the surface of the glass as it shimmers through the trees.
  • oodles of doodles – Accompanying the first two works will be an installation of objects produced during a creative workshop with local children

Shirer explained, “This will be a site-specific installation and it won’t exist until it’s there – it’s going to grow there. People will come and go just to see the progress, which also really elevates the understanding of what we’re doing.”  Owens and Shirer invite the public to come and watch them work, and they said there might be opportunities for people to help the artists. People should just come to the boardwalk to see what is happening and if the artists can put them to work.

“The vision is that the sculpture Art and Sherry create will draw crowds to the park to see their creation and help put Jefferson even more firmly on the map as a tourist destination,” said Collins.

“All of Jefferson and beyond is invited to ‘Celebrate the Premiere!’” said Collins.  The artists will lead groups into the Park to see the completed work and be on hand to talk about the three installations.

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 will provide art enrichment education to public school students and give educators an opportunity to bring the classroom outside for direct interaction with artists. There is interest from area school districts in Northeast Texas, including Jefferson ISD, and in Louisiana.

Owens and Shirer want students to collaborate with them on elements for the finished sculpture so when it debuts on Sept. 29 entire families will come to see the finished project. While not a public event, an important part of the creative process in Jefferson during the Artists-in-Residence program is the children’s art creation.

Art students in the third and fourth grades in the local elementary school are creating 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 will use to create their works of art. Art on the River and Collins Academy are grateful for Activa’s generous donation.

“Education is really important to both of us,” Owens said. “We are looking forward to the workshop with kids and we already have a list going of several different activities we will do.”

Collins said he was especially pleased children will be a part of the art. “I think it is great that the kids of Jefferson will be able to help create a piece of art that will be a part of the future of Jefferson,” he said. “These young artists will get a chance to work alongside renowned artists and I am very happy children will get to leave their mark on the Park in a positive way.”

Art on the River

 Owens and Shirer learned of the opportunity to create a sculpture in Jefferson from Collins and Lucy Buchanan, a national art consultant who is presently the Director of Development for the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at UT Dallas. Buchanan contracted with Amy Williams Monier to be the curator of the Artists-in-Residence program.

“Thanks to the generosity and leadership of Richard H. Collins we are making the most of a tremendous opportunity to transform Jefferson. The Artists-in-Residence program, as part of this effort as a rich cultural program, enables us to engage the general public and students from around the area in an outdoor learning environment – building on the mission of the Collins Academy,” said Buchanan. “The premiere of these art works gives visitors yet another reason to make Jefferson a tourism destination.”

Monier, curator of the program, has curated large outdoor environmental sculpture exhibitions for over 20 years on the 72 acres of the Connemara Conservancy. She also was the first director of 500 Exposition, one of the first artist co-ops in Dallas in Deep Ellum.

The History of Jefferson

 Collins’ passion for restoring key parts of Jefferson is rooted in the history of the city, dating back to 1845 when Jefferson became a port of entry into Texas. At the time, Jefferson was the largest inland port in the state – a thriving boomtown. That year, obstructions were removed from the Big Cypress Bayou so steamboats could reach Jefferson from New Orleans. It is during this time, until 1875, Jefferson thrived in the Golden Era as a steamboat port. The architectural styles, which developed in Jefferson during this period of prosperity, resembled those of New Orleans. Jefferson’s history is connected to the legend of a wealthy railroad executive, Jay Gould. His railcar is now displayed as a tourist attraction in downtown Jefferson. The city is now home to more registered historic structures than anywhere else in Texas.


About Art on the River

Art on the River is a component of The Jefferson Restoration and Arts Project, a multi-year reinvestment to bring art to Jefferson and restore historical properties. Through revitalizing the charms of yesterday, The Jefferson Restoration and Arts Project will draw tourists, create a renewed sense of community, instill the values of lifelong learning, and foster a creative partnership with renowned artists. The project is underwritten by and directed under the leadership of Richard H. Collins.

About Collins Academy

The Collins Academy develops innovative educational programs and creates hands-on learning opportunities that focus on environmental conservation and historic preservation. The Collins Academy supports efforts that revitalize communities and sustainability generated by the community, and local resources around Jefferson, Texas. Learn more at

About Richard H. Collins

Richard H. Collins’ ties to Jefferson begin with his roots: his mother, Calvert K. Collins, was from nearby Marshall. He bought The House of the Seasons in 1973 and spent three years fully restoring it to its original form – built in 1872. His love of The House of the Seasons has expanded to adding a Victorian sculpture garden and restoring the Union Missionary Baptist Church, one of the oldest African-American structures in Texas. Now, he is leading and underwriting the effort to bring artists and sculptures to Jefferson. Richard H. Collins is Chairman and CEO of Istation, an interactive education technology company.