In the third installment of our Phase Chronograph Campaign, A Moment Marked, we visit with Jason Koen of The Box Company. With the hopes of building a lively art community, Jason and his wife, Nancy, founded The Box Company, a multi-use art space for experiencing, showing, and creating contemporary art.
We first stopped by his home in Dallas, where he shared his beginnings and how he gets started with the day. The second part of our interview took us to The Box Company, where Jason shared his journey, the selection process for new artists, what’s in the future for him, and how he defines success.
What does an average day look like for you?
Jason: Everyday day for me can be so wildly different that I don’t know where the bar is for average. But I could probably say that many days might be waking up, one of my boys takes the bus to school and one I drive to high school. Between here and downtown I can drop him off and I am usually working somewhere in Dallas, whether that’s Box, or in the Design District at a museum, or a clients home in a highrise. Normally it’s starting my day off rushing out the door with a cup of coffee in my hand and spilling on my way to wherever I am driving. I am usually out and about for the day. If it is a slow day and I don’t have a lot of physical work to do or places to be, I come back home and office off my kitchen table. I spend a lot of time installing artwork, fabricating, and doing things which are just off site and could be anywhere.
Tell us about your journey, the beginnings of your career. How has that changed shape over the years?
Jason: I started off working in a family business that was a corrugated shipping container company, which is just a way to say cardboard boxes. My grandfather had this business of buying, brokering and manufacturing boxes. I grew up in the warehouse, driving forklifts, delivery trucks, and then moving into sales. A buddy of mine and I had also opened a skateboard shop. We had a skateboard shop over in fairpark. Most of my time was spent working so I could afford to skate because that was my primary habit. With skateboarding I traveled a lot and I would go live in Philadelphia, especially in the Summers. In the late 90’s, Philadelphia had become a mecca for skateboarding so it drew me there. At the time I was just doing construction work, skateboarding and spending all my time imaging I was going to be a professional skateboarder and get paid lots of money. But it turns out I didn’t and I still skate and still love it.
It took me well into my thirties of doing different things. I got back into the arts at one point after doing quite a bit of construction like rehabbing homes with my father. Getting into arts, I got a job off of craigslist and got into an art services company. From there I got a job with a really cool and private collection/museum called the Goss-Michael Foundation. I spent several years there, and after that I moved out and began freelancing. Meaning I would do all sorts of things in and around art.
Fast forward up until recent history, I have been freelancing for about a decade and am still in art, doing primarily art services. My wife and I built a gallery space, but we call it a project space because we don’t have a roster like a typical gallery. It has been pretty successful and now we are just taking on the art services part of that business. My parents are needing to utilize the warehouse and draw some resources on it so they are focusing on renting out space in that building. So we are slowing down what we are doing with the gallery space and using it more like a shop space.
What is your selection process like? Do you have any standard set of principles when seeking new artists?
Jason: We focus on contemporary, new and emerging artists. That’s where our attention is, but it seems like we have been showing a lot of mid career and so on. We haven’t actually curated many shows ourselves. The idea for the space was really to have it where we were curating the curators. It was more about bringing people in who had a concept or idea for an exhibit . It was a commercial space, meaning the artworks were for sale but we operated more like a non-profit in the sense that it was more exhibition based and we weren’t really trying to focus on the sales aspect. We were showing works and didn’t want to go down the path of creating a non-profit knowing how quickly things do change. We didn’t know how much time we actually had in the space. We were hoping an institution like a university would take up the torch on this.
The idea for the space was really to have it where we were curating the curators.
For me it is the resiliency of being able to handle change, and keep your enthusiasm in every failure.
What could say about the benefits of the Dallas creative community are?
Jason: I don’t travel as much as I would like to. I get a little glimpse of the art scene when I go places. I hangout with my artist friends when I travel, but I typically don’t do a whole lot. I am usually doing something unrelated or it might be a pure work trip. I feel like there is a special and unique identity among the individual participants in the arts here. Everyone has their strong identity. When I say this in other places, people always say that it sounds like New York or that it sounds like somewhere also. So maybe it’s everywhere and is not specific to Dallas, but I do feel like there is a special energy, it’s cooperative and supportive among everybody. It’s a all the boats are allowed to rise with the water situation. That may not be unique to Dallas but it is something that I do find special here.
What’s in the future?
Jason: I heard this really cool definition for success and it was: being able to go from one failure to the next without any loss of enthusiasm. I could not begin to answer what is in the future because all I know is that everything has constantly evolved and I have tried to really become aware of that and embrace the change that is constant. The future is about me looking for new doors that might be cracking open that I can stick a toe in. But as far as having a definite direction, I don’t really have a goal or dream as far as that other than maybe growing the existing art services business that I have, where I could take on more corporate scale clients.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Jason: I always tell people whenever they ask what I do, because I don’t really have a good answer for that, but what usually comes out of my mouth is that I do anything it takes to keep from getting a real job. It is important for me that i do something for myself. I call it freelancing, but I have been working in this capacity for most of my life. Working for myself and having my wife and i work together in almost everything we do. She has her hussles and I have mine, but we also collaborate in the middle on quite a bit of it. We both are achievers so in doing that it creates a lot. You always have a sense of ownership. So having the autonomy to do whatever you want with it is important to me.
What does success mean to you?
Jason: I struggle with defining success. For me it is the resiliency of being able to handle change, and keep your enthusiasm in every failure. A series of failures without a loss of enthusiasm. I think this is a great definition of success for me. My personal success is defined in happiness more or so than comfort.
Photos, Video and Music | Kalan Briggs