The dictionary says a box is container with a flat base and sides, typically square or rectangular and having a lid. Not very exciting.

But when members of The Arts Center in Corvallis asked people to use the box as inspiration for its holiday community art exhibit, the results were stunning.

Half of the artists were invited to create art for the exhibit, while an open call was extended to community members who wanted to participate, says curator Hester Coucke. 

About 70 mid-valley artists submitted their box interpretations for the exhibit, "Inside/Outside the Box," which has an opening reception tonight as part of the Corvallis Arts Walk. The display will be on view through Dec. 21, at The Arts Center.

Coucke said the exhibit allowed artists to go in either very literal or metaphorical directions with their artwork. The idea was to challenge them to "think inside or outside of the box," so the exhibit would feature a variety of work.

"Some of the boxes are just a box, and you can put something in it. Others are wildly interpreted dioramas," Coucke said.

All media is included in the exhibit. There are boxes that showcase two-dimensional work, paintings, drawings, paper, fiber arts and wood.

"It goes from a small silver pendant that is a piece of cake in a box to ceramics," Coucke said. "There is something made out of steel and glass."

Coucke herself made a small decorative box using Japanese paper. It has a little bell on the top.

A jack-in-the-box by Keith Bowers features a past presidential figure covered in gold. 

"Some of them are funny, and others are beautiful or more serious," Coucke said.

The exhibit displays several examples of artists "thinking outside of the box" with their work.

"One of them is a kaleidoscope. One is a rattle. One (artist) used a little saucepan as a starting point," Coucke said.

Pat Berman made a little sculpture of a man, where his head is connected to a box, but separated from his body. His hands and arms are reaching up to find his head.

"It's just fun to see a painter or whoever make something that they otherwise would not present," she said. "Artists like to have a little opportunity to do something new."

People who have received an invitation card for "Inside/Outside the Box" exhibit may notice that on the front of the card is a cutout for a box that can be put together. Gallery visitors are encouraged to make the box, write their name and email or phone number in it, and bring it to Thursday's reception.

The small box will be entered into a raffle. At the end of the reception, one will be selected and the winner will receive a box that Coucke made and donated as a raffle prize.

The exhibit, which includes a Brown Bag Art Talk on Thursday, Nov. 30, will be bookended by the Corvallis Arts Walk events Thursday night and Dec. 21.

"It is in November and December. We wanted to make sure people could buy these as a Christmas or a holiday gift," Coucke said.

The December Arts Walk will be the closing of the show, which Coucke calls the "de-construction" of an exhibit.

"We are going to pack up the show, while the public is watching, so that buyers and artists can pick it up," she said.

The curator said she was surprised by the number of submissions, and thinks viewers will appreciate the detail and variety they will see in the artwork.

"I always find that artists never fail to surprise me, but in this case that is certainly so," Coucke said.

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