The arts have a dramatic impact on Jacksonville’s economy a group of panelists, including Preston Haskell, Robert Arleigh White and Robert Massey, told a luncheon at Jacksonville University on Thursday

 

But Haskell, who has amassed one of the finest private collections of modern art in the country and served in leadership roles with many arts organizations in Jacksonville, said the impact could be much more significant if city officials and JAX Chamber put more emphasis on Jacksonville’s vibrant arts scene.

Massey, president and CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony, noted that the presence of strong arts institutions was one of the factors that led the Mayo Clinic to put a campus in Jacksonville.

“What if our chamber and our City Council were as enthusiastic about our symphony and museums as they are about football team?” asked Robert Arleigh White, an arts consultant who was formerly executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and of Theatre Jacksonville. “What if people at every level were enthusiastic?”

The city also under-funds its arts organizations, panelists said.

Massey said the symphony’s annual budget has grown from $7 million to $11 million over the last five years, but city support has not grown. Currently the city allocates about $2.85 million a year to arts organizations. The return on that investment is about $80 million, White said.

Haskell said the city should be giving $8 million to $10 million a year to arts organizations.

There may be no better example of how the arts can improve the city’s image than the Jacksonville International Airport, which has a permanent art collection of 16 pieces as well as two galleries and eight cases that exhibit art on loan.

“It’s good business,” said Steve Grossman, CEO of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, who introduced the speakers at “The Business of the Arts” panel discussion Thursday. “It makes our passengers happy.”

In 2011, the London Observer called the JIA one of the four best airports in the world in which to be stranded, joining London’s Heathrow Airport, Seoul Airport in South Korea and Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol on the list.

In 2012, CNN host Erin Burnett, after being stranded in the JIA, said on air that JIA is “what I think might be America’s best airport.” In both cases the airport’s art was a major factor.

Haskell, who founded the Haskell Co., an architecture, engineering and construction firm, said he likes to fill the company offices with art because art “stimulates creativity.”

When they are surrounded by art “people are more engaged and their projects are better,” he said.

He said the presence of two excellent art museums, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, which have a cooperative relationship, is a significant asset for the city while the Jacksonville Symphony is “the finest symphony orchestra in America for its city-size.”

“I think Jacksonville has a wonderful visual and performing arts scene,” he said.

Haskell also talked about the CoRK Arts District, a complex of former warehouses that have been converted to artists studio and galleries and have attracted other artists studio to its North Riverside neighborhood. “We are not properly supporting those artists,” he said

He praised Jessica Santiago, a gallery owner, who founded the downtown art festival, ArtRepublic, in 2016. It brings artists into the city each November to paint murals on downtown walls.

Haskell has begun a “downtown sculpture initiative” and plans to put about a dozen sculptures outside downtown buildings in the next few years. He said ArtRepublic, his sculpture initiative and the Art in Public Places program, which uses money set aside during major city building projects to purchase public art, have the potential “to make downtown a dramatic and beautiful arts district.”

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413