Three artists. Three days. One lock.

‘Locked In’ on art at Yellow Springs Arts Council

By Joyell Nevins

Photo: [l-r] Artists Brandon Lowery, Nathaniel Foley and Jesse Thayer prepare for Yellow Springs’ second annual Locked In; photo: Rod Hatfield

When the Yellow Springs Arts Council said it was going to “lock in” artists this year, it wasn’t being figurative. The results of the second-annual Locked In are on display at the council’s Community Gallery until Nov. 30.

Sculptors and friends Nathaniel Foley, Jesse Thayer and Brandon Lowery have given a whole new meaning to the term “all-nighter.” They went into the Community Gallery on a Monday morning and did not emerge until Thursday morning, when their art installation was complete.

The windows of the gallery were covered up to the outside world, with little holes ripped out to peek into (and yes, there were curious community members looking in). Videographer Rod Hatfield of The Now Device caught the whole thing on camera (see a video from last year’s Locked In at

Sleep was as they could get it, and meals and snacks were provided by other artists and local businesses like Emporium Wines and the Underdog Cafe, Current Cuisine, Ha Ha Pizza, Tom’s Market and Peifer Orchards.

“Everyone was so kind and generous. We barely mentioned the need to feed the Locked In artists and they said sure!” says Nancy Mellon, the gallery coordinator.

To up the ante even more, each artist was allowed only three tools each and had to work with three boxes of unknown “stuff.” For a month prior, the whole Yellow Springs community was invited to fill the boxes with every kind of object imaginable. This included a kid-size umbrella, a Crown Royal bag, a teapot, a deflated beach ball, corks, bottle caps, stuffed animals, discarded frame ends … you get the picture.

“It could be anything the donator thinks would be cool to use in an art installation,” Mellon says. “Looking at what this year’s team had to work with was mind boggling! As things kept coming in, I found myself gleefully thinking, ‘Oh my! What are they going to do with that?’

Last year, the final result of artists Pierre Nagley, Ron Hundt and Jennifer Bachelder with video by Travis Hawkes turned the gallery into a fantastical sea world.

“It was like walking into a different world,” Mellon recalls. “It was very ‘under the sea’ and fantasy filled with strange creatures and a feeling of beautiful reefs and water.”

The original idea for Locked In came from Mellon, but she notes it was a combination of concepts from many other sources—like art happenings, participatory art, kid lock-ins at museums and reality television.

“I put it in the pot, stirred and out came Locked In,” Mellon laughs.

This year’s three artists applied as a team last year, and the arts council was so impressed with both them and the original three artists that it put “Locked In: Team 2” immediately on the schedule for 2015.

“I think it takes a special person to accept this kind of challenge,” Mellon says. “It truly is daunting—there are so many ways they are being pushed, in the time they have to create, no pre-knowledge of the space, what mediums they are working with, what tools they will need. And more than likely, they will be working against lack of sleep. But if it’s anything like last year, there will be zinging energy, laughter and a memory of a lifetime.”

Each of the artists brings something unique to the team—Foley calls himself an “aviation-inspired” sculptor, using language and materials present in aviation, Thayer works mostly with industrial metals and wood and Lowery’s emphasis is on ceramics. The three have collaborated before, most recently on a permanent sculpture for Miami University’s Freedom Summer memorial (they all studied in the 3D arena there). But they have never worked in conditions like these.

“We decided that it would be a fun, new and interesting experience,” Lowery said going into it. “We also knew that we worked well together and thought the Locked In would challenge us to create in a new way. It’s going to be a wild three days!”

The men were enthusiastic about creating a sculpture, but also about
transforming the whole gallery space.

“The nature of the exhibition being self-encompassed and improvisational fits in my structure of making perfectly,” Thayer says. “My hope for this exhibit is not only for construction of collaborative objects, but a transformation of the space itself.”

Foley concludes, “We want to create an engaging experience for the viewers.”

View the team’s final creation now until Nov. 30 at the Yellow Springs Arts Council Community Gallery, 111 Corry St. The gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 1-4 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 937.679.YSAC.


Reach DCP freelance writer Joyell Nevins at

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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