Usually art is shipped to museums in boxes. For an exhibit opening today at the University Art Museum, the boxes are the art.

“Women Beyond Borders: The Art of Building Community,” a collection of 191 objects by women from all over the world, returns to Santa Barbara after touring 50 countries and being seen by nine million people. The exhibit’s return will be celebrated Oct. 1 through Dec. 15 at the University Art Museum.

The museum’s hours are Tuesday noon to 8 p.m. and Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

“The boxes represent the different situations women face in each country,” Niki Dewart, UCSB Art Museum Curator of Education, said. “For the U.S., this project represents what is important to American women.”

Santa Barbara artists Lorraine Serena and Elena Siff started “Women Beyond Borders” in 1991. The project consisted of giving women a wooden box to transform into their own creation.

The exhibition is divided into three sections. “In the beginning…” recreates the exhibition on a smaller scale, with three artists representing each participating country. “From the local to the global…” explores the different styles of boxes from women in Israel, Japan, Bosnia, Mexico, Nepal and the United Kingdom among others, and “Into the future…” concludes with boxes by young girls from Australia and Santa Barbara’s Girls Inc.

“Art is being used as a way to join together and build a community,” Serena, director of WBB, said. “It is an opportunity for women’s voices to be heard.”

UCSB women will also have an opportunity to let their expressions “out of the box” by participating in a “Build a Box” workshop on Oct. 10 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Women’s Center Art Gallery.

Among the local participants are chef Julia Child, former mayor Harriet Miller, and Skip Cole, professor emeritus at UCSB. Other participants are UCSB alumni, Mary Heebner, Beverly Decker and Seyburn Zorthian.

The exhibit returns to the welcoming arms of a new museum director.

The University Art Museum is now under the direction of Bonnie Kelm, who received a bachelor’s degree in art education, a master’s in art history and a doctorate in art administration. Before coming to UCSB, Kelm was the director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, director of the Miami University Art Museum and the McGuffey Museum in Oxford, Ohio.

Like the exhibit’s creators, Kelm would like to reach out to the community. By next fall she would like to increase the museum’s involvement in the community.

“I want to create an official volunteer student organization for the museum,” said Kelm. ” And I would like the museum to act as a bridge between the university and the outside community.”