Eighty years ago, restoration was not a buzz word – it was a way of life.

My kids and I gather around their great-grandma often for depression-era accounts of repairing, reshaping and remaking from her childhood. Her mama made dresses from feed sacks, her daddy salvaged wood from an old barn to build the smokehouse and the kids salvaged worn out washtubs to float down the creek. They remade and re-did and took life as it came.

Generations later, we are beginning to once again appreciate the usefulness of found objects. The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, which just celebrated its 90th anniversary, recently emphasized the beauty in the ordinary – and often discarded – in its “Material Transformations” exhibit. Seven artists eschew 21st century materialism and create beauty from the discarded.

Animals sculpted from household masking tape playfully came to life as Rune Olsen’s skilled strokes with a graphite pencil stretched taught muscles over a humble frame.

See what MOCA has in store for One Spark

Nature’s bold lines were also evoked by Alison Foshee. Office staples formed fir branches and pine boughs. The irony of pines so often being farmed for paper mills and then being held by staples again made me smile as I looked closely at her pieces. Staples. Such an ordinary office supply was transformed into art by a woman willing to see beauty where others rushed by.

MOCA itself is an example of finding beauty where little was left. The old Western Union Telegraph building serves a fresh purpose as it houses the museum, Café Nola, the MOCA gift shop and educational spaces in the heart of downtown Jacksonville.

MOCA’s atrium – once a walled off courtyard – finds new life as the largest display space in Northeast Florida and a platform for emerging artists to share their passion and talent. The sunlit space is a nod to the past but the three-story height opens to contemporary galleries and encourages visitors to explore each floor.

Since 1931, the Western Union site has been used, reshaped and repurposed again and again. To visit MOCA is to experience a large-scale relic restoration that inspires simple living in the present so we can all look forward to a beautiful future.

Material Transformations ran through April 6. Current and upcoming exhibitions include:

Project Atrium: One Spark Project No. 20196
April 9 – July 6

The New York Times Magazine Photograph
April 26 – August 24

For more information visit mocajacksonville.org.