by Elijah Tietjen
The St. Augustine Art Association, located on 22 Marine Street, is a locally run art gallery dedicated to highlighting local artisan work, as well as bringing works from around the country. The association itself functions as more than just an Art Gallery, it also hosts a series of workshops, lectures, and events that are open to members and the public, promoting the spread of art and culture in St. Augustine. Members of the association have the opportunity to display and sell their art work at the gallery; the gallery displays a new show every month and gives out prizes and awards to artists who have been deemed by local judges to be the best in show. I have interned at the Art Association for two semesters, assisting with everything from research to event planning. The experience has been rewarding, learning how a small non-profit organization is run and seeing how it interacts with the community of volunteers that have made the Art Association a successful operation since 1924.
Last semester, I was specifically involved with the T.O.U.C.H St. Augustine program, which is dedicated to making the arts accessible to the visually impaired. The project’s goal was to install five plaques, located next to statues throughout the city, which contained braille descriptions of the statues and a tactile drawing which allows the visually impaired to get a feeling of what the statue looks like by touch. Underneath the plaque is a phone number which leads the caller to an audio guide containing both a historical narrative about the statue and a visual description. My main contribution to the program–and the bulk of my research–are these historical narratives.
This semester, I have been given the task of organizing and creating inventories for the Art Association’s archives. These are not the formal archives held at most libraries and museums, but are more or less a series of boxes that have not been particularly organized. Given that these boxes contain documents dating all the way back to the 1920s, it is important for the Association to be able to access these easily and care for them in the future. This has been a somewhat learn-as-you-go process, as I have never worked with archives, and I have been discovering that sometimes the best method of preserving the collection is to leave it alone. Other, more disorganized, collections may need some tampering. The end goal is to transfer the collections into new, clearly labeled boxes for easy access and safe storage.