Take a tour of Jacksonville’s biggest art gallery

 

By Denise M. Reagan

December is “golden time” in Florida—dazzling proof of why live here. The weather is perfect for a tour the region’s biggest art gallery—Downtown Jacksonville.

Yes, Downtown. Murals and sculpture have been popping up across the urban core for years, but two programs have been brightening the spaces that surround us as we walk to work, restaurants, government offices, and entertainment.

In 1997, the city allotted .75 percent of any project costing more than $100,000 to spend on public art, creating Art in Public Places (APP). The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville oversees the selection, installation, maintenance, conservation, and promotion of the artworks.

Art in Public Places has acquired more than 115 artworks and memorials throughout Duval County in libraries, event spaces, and public areas. The collection includes photography, murals, mosaics, sculptures, and street furnishings.

Many of those artworks appear in Downtown:

• Jaume Plensa’s “Talking Continents,” six brightly colored figures kneeling atop 30-foot poles at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, 2003.

• Larry Kirkland’s “Wisdom,” a 25-foot-tall, five-ton owl perched on the corner of the Main Library, 2005.

• Shaun Thurston’s “Float Lands,” islands hovering over Chamblin’s Uptown, 2013. Thurston has completed more than a dozen murals throughout the urban core, including works outside the Museum of Science & History, Burrito Gallery, and The 5 & Dime, A Theatre Company.

• Brower Hatcher’s “Showing the Way,” an abstract stainless-steel oak commemorating Tillie K. Fowler on the Northbank Riverwalk, 2009.

• Sean Mahan’s“Girl and Origami” and Milagros Art Collective’s “Coruscating River,” rising from Adams Street on two corners of the Yates Parking Garage, 2013.

• Roux Art’s “Mirrored River: Where do you see yourself?,” a 60-foot mosaic installed by Kate Garcia Rouh, Kenny Rouh, and more than 71 volunteers on the Southbank Riverwalk, 2015.

In 2016, the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) partnered with APP on the multiphase Urban Arts Project to promote urban core development. Phase I launched in January 2016, and a nine-member panel selected six artists who participated in public meetings and researched the area prior to submitting their final designs and installing them in spring 2017.

The projects include:

• Andrew Reid SHEd and Cecilia Lueza painted murals on 17 support columns of the Skyway from Hemming Park to Central stations to enhance street-level engagement, promote walkability, and improve the perception of safety. The murals feature themes on the St. Johns River, black history, multiculturalism, and urban renewal.

• Michelle Weinberg designed vinyl wrapping for traffic signal cabinets on Pearl, Hogan, and Laura streets to transform the utilitarian objects into works of art.

• Lance Vickery installed sculptural bike racks on Hogan, Laura, Adams, and Forsyth streets that supply space for fifty bicycles using the organic forms of earth, water, fire, and air.

• Jenny Hager built fanciful benches, chairs, trash receptacles, and planters near the corner of Hogan and Monroe streets to encourage socializing along a main pedestrian connector.

• Rafael Consuegra created a sculpture near the corner of Laura and Monroe streets in front of the historic Snyder Memorial church.

The next phase of the Urban Arts Project is set to launch in 2018 and will target the Elbow entertainment district from Bay to Adams streets and Main to Liberty streets.

The second year of Art Republic—a festival of public art, digital art, fashion, and lectures—wrapped in November. The festival invited 12 artists to complete murals over the course of about two weeks. In 2016, 10 artists were selected.

Walls are transformed nearly overnight. A few of this year’s highlights include:

• Okuda San Miguel’s technicolor, multiwall opus on 927 Events on Forsyth Street.

• Dourone and David Petroni’s monumental collaboration on the parking garage at 11 N. Julia St.

• Mohamed L’Gacham’s muted color palette couple at 112 E. Forsyth St.

I suggest two things to improve the results of Art Republic:

• Invite local artists to assist the international artists invited to paint. This would provide valuable experience for local artists who wish to branch into public art.

• Ask the invited artists to research Jacksonville’s background or ask for input on their subject matter. This would provide more buy-in from the community and make the murals into lasting landmarks.

Treat yourself to a tour of Downtown Jacksonville’s public art this month. It’s a great way to celebrate the burgeoning cultural district during the holidays.

Denise M. Reagan is senior PR manager at Brunet-García Advertising, a longtime journalist, and a frustrated Downtown enthusiast.

Breakout box

Downtown art tour

Art in Public Places: culturalcouncil.org/artinpublicplaces.html

Urban Arts Project: culturalcouncil.org/dia-urban-arts-project.html

Art Republic interactive map: artrepublicglobal.com/public-art