Cereal Boxes As Art? Massive Collection Goes On Display In One Day Installation On South Coast

Jun 19, 2019

Some people collect stamps.  Other collect coins.  But, for more than four decades, a UC Santa Barbara professor has collected the type of boxes you might have in your kitchen cabinet, or even on your kitchen table right now.

William Davies King says it something which started nearly four decades ago.  He was a college student, and wanted to collect something, but couldn’t afford something like baseball cards.  He stumbled across cereal boxes.

His cereal box collection is huge, including some 2300 boxes.

On Thursday, the UCSB Theater and Dance Professor is going to share his collection with the community.  In a performance theater at UCSB, he is going to turn the boxes into one giant artwork, which he calls “The Tree of Life.”

He’s started work on the project, which includes putting more than 100 boxes on the ground of the studio, in the form of a trunk of a tree.  The flattened boxes will eventually fill the entire room.

King says it’s also performance art.  People will be able to come starting at 9 a.m., to watch him cover the floor with the colorful boxes, sort of like a giant sand mandala.  It’s expected to be an all day event, ending with a reception and discussion at 5 p.m

And just like one of the giant sand artworks, it will disappear.  The mandala will be there for one day only.

King says he doesn’t have a favorite box, although he has some unusual ones, like a Wheaties box with a picture of Michael Jordan, and a "Mr. T" cereal box.  And, he’s not offended by store brand cereal boxes, noting that they are often simplistic to convey to shoppers the cereal is economical.

He’s hoping the “Tree of Life” event will trigger memories for art lovers. Maybe they’ll remember breakfast sitting it a kitchen table, or being in front of the TV on a Saturday morning watching cartoons with a bowl of cereal.

The “Tree of Life” event takes place all day Thursday in the Modern Dance studio at UCSB’s HSSB building.  The building is on the south side of the UCSB Events Center.  It’s free, with the reception at 5 p.m.