Lifting Art in Jacksonville

February 15, 2014 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

New galleries open and momentum builds. EUJacksonville shares this piece by Jen Jones, Executive Director of Unity Plaza, on the fall and rise of art galleries during the most recent recession.

Sharla Valeski, Untitled, Acrylic on canvas, 24x24 inches

Most widely known, is that Jacksonville has enjoyed a consistent wave of artist collaborations that emerged or strengthened during the recession. They provided purchasing opportunities and uplifted our city’s urban core. New art gallery co-ops, with shopping and creat¬ing spaces, formed and joined existing collaborations like downtown’s heralded Southlight Gallery. Some of these include The Arts Center Cooperative (TAC), Jacksonville Artist Guild, The Art League of Jacksonville, and of course, the formidable artist community CoRK, located in West Riverside on the Corner of Rosselle and King Streets. CoRK brings 70 artists and 80,000 square feet of dedicated, visual art space to Jacksonville. Dolf James, co-founder, nationally recognized sculptor and proud project developer to CoRK, enthusiastically shared his thoughts; “It is an exciting time to be an artist in Jacksonville. In just a few short years we have gone from little recognition to being on the verge of national attention. There is serious art being made here and people are beginning to notice. Many of us feel 2014 will be a breakout year.”

And break out we are poised to be. The Greater Cultural Council of Jacksonville, previously nurtured and tended for over a decade by infamous perfor¬mance artist and the recently retired Robert Arleigh White, is now headed by new leadership in Kim Bergeron - an exciting power-house of a woman with the essence of Gertrude Stein and a love for encouraging political leadership to participate in and collect visual art.

Under White’s leadership, a national consulting firm studied the fiscal impact of the twenty-two not-for-profit, cultural, visual and performing arts organizations in our city which received the annual, small to mid-sized Cultural Services Grant in 2011 from the Cultural Council. The study unveiled that from 2011-2012, recession or not, the first coast realized a $61-million-dollar financial gain from this limited investment in a limited segment of our arts and culture industry. Imagine if the for-profit gal¬leries and artists had been supported by art collecting in Jacksonville with the ethos used by the Cul¬tural Council? When amortized, that figure could be astounding and call global attention to our region.

Currently, the artwork provided by galleries and created by North Florida artists is bountiful and exciting. Tremendous new bodies of stunning work are being developed by renowned North Florida giants as well as breathtaking new talent on the visual art scene, each investment worthy and provid¬ing excellent solutions for the walls of homes, businesses and facilities.

Marilyn Antram, Blazing Flowers, Acrylic on canvas

Abstract painter and daring mixed media artist Sharla Valeski, also a former brick and mortar gallery owner who found increased success and fellowship in the CoRK artist complex in Riverside, states, “I’m meeting artists who are coming to Jacksonville, leaving the saturated art markets of other cities. They see Jacksonville as an opportunity to be successful.” Her energetic, playful and organic works grace the walls of Everbank Tower, the homes of local business leaders and of national collec¬tors.

Like all rebirths, painful and beautiful, the art industry in Jacksonville felt vulnerable during the recession, and yet succinctly, with business acumen and poise, has repositioned itself to come out stronger. It will ultimately help rebrand our city through its collaborative wisdom and collective talent. Our esteemed North Florida visual art industry works instrument-in-hand daily to provide our community with incredible visuals that underscore our human experience, provide us identity, tell our unique Jacksonville story and expand our city’s reach. Consistent in this picture are the gallery and artist, both necessary and integral parts of our community heritage.

As shared by beloved and nationally collected painter Chip Southworth, “I see a new vitality rising in the regional art scene. The curating, collecting and attraction of outside talent has stepped up, but it will be the inclusion of local art by local collectors that will complete the turn around. Without the participation of both producers and buyers of art here at home the area will struggle, financially and in national reputation. However, I have never been so optimistic. The city wants art, is embracing the idea. It’s time now for the execution of an amazingly supportive 2014.”

This article was written by Jen Jones, former gallery owner and art consultant in Jacksonville, Florida, from 1998-2013. She is now inaugural Executive Director of our city’s currently under construction, modern-day Central Park, Unity Plaza – coming to life at 220 Riverside Avenue. A life-enriching urban gathering space dedicated to supporting performing and visual arts, leadership, integrative health and environmental programming and community education and engagement established by NAI Hallmark Partners to uplift and inspire Jacksonville.

EU Jacksonville is a local print publication and web source that provides comprehensive articles and guides to entertainment, dining & local issues in Jacksonville and the surrounding Northeast Florida communities. EU covers a variety of entertainment including live music, movies, arts, theatre, food, dining, sports, television, books and family activities. They have a varied editorial staff, both young and veteran. EU values its audience, young, old, and in between.

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