New mini murals beautify Downtown in more ways than one

Ambassador Michael and artist Jami Childers
Ambassador Michael and artist Jami Childers

Downtown’s latest murals give new meaning to the phrase “from trash to treasure.”

Two paintings, approximately two feet wide and eight feet high, now cover the gaps between The Magnificat Cafe and its two adjacent buildings near the corner of Laura and Monroe streets. These gaps used to be a common spot for litter, now no longer accessible thanks to the artwork.

“It’ll brighten up that corner a little bit,” said artist Jami Childers, who painted the murals. “It’s a good remedy for an ugly problem.”

The idea for the murals began last fall when Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer Rey Coll approached Downtown Ambassador Michael Ryan about the gap on Monroe Street. Officer Coll asked Ambassador Mike if there was anything he could do about cleaning out the litter and possibly blocking the gap with a plant or other material.

While Officer Coll and Ambassador Mike were discussing clean-up options at the site, Childers, who owns 44 Monroe Art Studio & Gallery adjacent to the gap, popped out to see what they were up to. They explained the issue, and then the idea came to Ambassador Michael: Childers could paint a mural to install over the gap.

Childers, who loved the idea, agreed to donate her time and materials to paint a portrait – her specialty – for the Monroe Street mural, while Ambassador Mike recruited Rick Moesner of Kim’s Hot Dog Express to supply the woodwork. In a just a matter of days, the mural was complete and installed to the right-hand side of Childers’ studio.

Screen shot 2015-04-21 at 4.07.04 PM“It helps to try to cut down [on littering],” Ambassador Mike said, “and it covers an ugly alleyway that goes to nowhere.”

Prior to the installation of the first piece, it took Ambassador Mike two hours, four 50-gallon trash bags and a 12-foot pole to remove trash thrown into the gap.

The second piece was completed earlier this month and installed Tuesday on Laura Street with the help of Childers’ friend, Michael Harrison. It depicts a French countryside scene to complement Magnificat Cafe’s cuisine. Childers would love to paint more of these mini murals if additional building gaps Downtown provide the opportunity.

Public art creates a stronger sense of place and community pride, says Americans for the Arts‘ Public Art Network Council.

“Cities gain value through public art – cultural, social, and economic value,” states the organization’s Green Paper. “It reflects and reveals our society, adds meaning to our cities and uniqueness to our communities.”

We can’t wait to see what’s next for Downtown Jacksonville’s arts scene.