First set of Spark Grant awards announced

What do outdoor sculptures, songwriters, artistic storefronts and a variety radio show have in common? They each are slated to add a unique “spark” to the Downtown arts scene in the coming year.

The projects of Jenny Hager, David “Brad” Lauretti, Joy Leverette and Ian Mairs were each selected as the first set of Spark Grant recipients for the Spark Grant Program, a Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville initiative to help revitalize Downtown’s Spark District through the arts.

From the Cultural Council, here’s more on the chosen projects:

  • University of North Florida sculpture professor Jenny Hager will create “Art in Public Places,” a national call to artists for outdoor sculptures. The pieces will be on loan for a two-year period and available for purchase and permanent display afterward.
  • Musician David “Brad” Lauretti, the booking manager for Underbelly, is presenting the “Jacksonville Songwriter’s Residency,” an effort to bring local and visiting songwriters to live and perform in the Spark District that will include shows at various Downtown nightlife venues.
  • Joy Leverette, also known as Sister Feathertoe, will implement “The Looking Lab: Art in Empty Storefronts,” activating four Downtown storefronts with varying art disciplines and an interactive experience to engage pedestrians and increase foot traffic.
  • Neptune Beach playwright Ian Mairs will produce “Swamp Radio Jax,” broadcasting quarterly “variety” shows and podcasts from the Spark District featuring local talent and street level activity, celebrating the art, culture and history of the River City.

$61,000 will be used to launch the projects between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014. The projects were specially chosen by a panel of art and community leaders, vetted by the City’s Art in Public Places committee and approved by the Cultural Council’s board of directors.

“I’m very grateful to the Cultural Council for helping manifest my project, which will transform empty and unused ‘dead space’ into street level mini-art galleries filled with intriguing contemporary art installations,” said Leverette. “It will bring arts and business leaders together to directly improve the streetscape with pedestrian-friendly, cutting edge art, in the spirit of ‘pop-up’ culture. We can’t wait to get started!”

Initiatives like these not only enliven our streets but enliven the community, showing that public art can have a significant impact on Downtown employees, residents and visitors’ quality of life as well as boost Downtown revitalization as a whole. More information on the Spark Grant Program can be found at the Cultural Council’s website.