When Shawn Thurston spray-painted his landscape mural on the storefront of Chamblin’s Uptown last month, the installation was an introduction of the public art to come. Using the inaugural One Spark festival as a catalyst, DVI continued its efforts in collaboration with the Cultural Council to bring art Downtown, acting as a liaison between artists and property owners and securing approval to add four temporary and permanent public art installations to Downtown’s building façades.
Local photographer and fine artist, Doug Eng, installed large-scale images of nature and architecture called “Beyond the Façade,” over the boarded windows of the Laura St. Trio and Barnett Bank buildings at the intersection of Laura and Adams streets.
A familiar face in the Downtown art scene, Eng has participated in Off the Grid for a number of years, formerly with a studio space in Studio 121 and currently as a member of the artist cooperative, Southlight Gallery. Prior to “Beyond the Façade,” Eng has lead and participated in a number of installations and exhibits Downtown including “Message in a Bottle: Wall of Light” in Main Street Park last spring. The installation sculpture displayed thousands of messages from the community to raise the awareness of our military’s service to our country.
‘Currently the landscape of abandoned buildings, empty storefronts, and “Available” signage is the driver of depressed states of consciousness for the city. By creating interest, curiosity, and observer interaction, we can begin to transform the downtown experience to a positive one,’ said Eng.
Local activists Doug Coleman and Wayne Wood introduced “The Big One” project, which brought six larger-than-life sculpture and mural installations to Downtown for One Spark. Included in project is the “Rise from the Ashes” wheat paste mural spanning the width of the vacant Lerner Building, which sits across from The Carling residence at 20 W. Adams Street.
The mural was a joint collaboration by local artists and graphic designers Corey Kolb and Eric Hinote. “We were trying to portray a positive message for the city in that it’s time to support Downtown and see it return to the epicenter it once was. We see that initiatives like Art Walk and One Spark can revitalize Jacksonville’s urban core by giving people a reason to visit and stay Downtown,” said Hinote. “We feel it’s time that Jacksonville embraces this notion and builds off the initiatives it has put in place to make Downtown more vibrant culturally.”
Between the Laura Street Trio and Lerner buildings, sits an empty fenced-in lot, which came to life with whimsical knitted scenes lead by Jackie Kuhn from Neptune Beach, FL. The most temporary of the installations, “Yarnbomb Downtown Jax,” showcased this female dominated art form, which creates a dialogue between fiber artists and the public through non-permanent street art, called “yarn bombing.” In addition to the mural, yarn creations covered tree trunks, statues, poles and bike racks during the festival.
Two blocks down Adams Street, Matthew Hebermehl of Savannah, GA lead a project by SeeSAW, See Savannah Art Walls, to paint “Up-cycle.” This installation on the exterior of Burro Bar at 100 E. Adams Street, brings color to a formerly whitewashed wall highly visible from the Main Street bridge entrance into the Northbank core of Downtown. Inspired by the themes of renewal and cultural fire, the mural showcases the positive impact of community-centric public art.
If Thurston’s first mural was the introduction, the murals installed for One Spark are only the first chapter. Announced recently, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville has launched a Spark Initiative for the walking core of Downtown. Through this grant program, the Cultural Council will fund additional placement of art and culture, such as bike racks or benches; or events, performances, festivals, concerts and tours.
Have you had a chance to see the new art Downtown? What do you think? What would you like to see next?