Having one’s own space to create is crucial in the pursuit of art, and for Visual Arts faculty member Nancy Langston, envisioning and constructing such spaces are powerful reminders of art’s ability to dismantle stereotypes. A natural builder with her spatial skills and aptitude for visualization, Langston often draws on construction techniques in her art and in turn builds to channel her creative impulses. “I’ve renovated several houses in Charleston, and the process is similar to creating sculptures,” she notes. “In many ways, it is easier because the outcome is a known and measured entity.” This summer, Langston drew on that same ability to create a unique and inviting campus space for her students: Their very own “She Shed.”

The idea began several years ago when Langston transformed her backyard with an outdoor open-air painting/sculpture studio. “It started as a 12′ x 12’4 post and metal-roofed structure and evolved into a 14′ x 30′ outdoor studio oasis complete with ceiling fans, lighting, a sitting area, speakers, a mural on the floor, bricked paths, a fire pit, and gardens,” she explained. “Working with the sights and sounds of nature is uplifting, enlivening, and inspiring to creativity. Knowing how it makes me feel to create in an open-air space, I have long wanted to build a space like this for the girls in my classes, and with the pandemic and the need for social distancing and fresh, uncontaminated air, I saw an opportunity.”

With the School’s approval of her building plans and sketches, Langston immediately went to work and completed the project over the course of two weekends. “I would be remiss if I were not to give a big shout out to my husband, David, who cheerfully assists in my projects,” she enthused. “He is a technology account manager by profession, not a builder, but he too loves the challenges, from digging post holes to wiring the lighting, such projects present.”

Stocked with pottery wheels, tables, and chairs, the “She Shed” could not have arrived at a better time. “Being in the elements sparks my curiosity and makes me appreciate nature and breathing so much more,” said Dorothy Fort ’22. Many students expressed a similar appreciation for the chance to create out-of-doors. “Being within four walls sucks the living life out of me,” exclaimed Bryce Turberville ’21. “I’m more motivated when I’m outside.” For Langston, offering her students the gift of their own space for creativity is both practical and inspirational as they build their own futures. “They were a bit shocked when I told them that I built it,” she smiled. “The construction workers on campus had the same reaction.  I look forward to a time when it is commonplace for folks to accept that a woman can have construction skills.”