Artist’s gift of time and talent will be a lasting treasure

Artist’s gift of time and talent  will be a lasting treasure

There’s nothing better than the surprise and delight of unexpected encounters with art. Through the efforts of organizations such as the Cultural Council’s Art in Public Places, residents are exposed – in a positive way – to a variety of artists’ works.

But even the Cultural Council received a nice surprise early last month when an electrical panel box in Hemming Plaza was discovered to have been whimsically decorated with mosaic art “by an unknown artist.”

According to Avondale artist Kate Garcia Rouh as posted on her RouxArt Facebook page, “Our objective in doing this little project is to put a little color and public art in our downtown core. Our hope is that the right people will see it and begin to get a picture of what we have in mind: transform our city with mosaics.”
Rouh has a history of creating mosaic art in Jacksonville, beginning with a mural on the Park Street side of West Riverside Elementary School in late 2011. That’s when she really caught the fever for changing Jacksonville through mosaic art. The mural was the inspiration for another installed earlier this year at John Stockton Elementary School, where Rouh’s art friend Pam Patterson is the art teacher.

Rouh’s latest project is the result of a $3,470 grant awarded by The Community Foundation. With the help of husband Ken, she is turning the inside of the gazebo at Yacht Basin Park into a wonderland of tile birds, flowers and whimsy.

Kate Rouh created this beautiful piece of art, literally piece by piece, in the archway in the gazebo at Yacht Basin Park. “I had the broad view that it would be flowers and birds, but I made it up as I went along,” said Rouh. The goal is to have the gazebo, including its floor, completed by the end of the year.

Kate Rouh created this beautiful piece of art, literally piece by piece, in the archway in the gazebo at Yacht Basin Park. “I had the broad view that it would be flowers and birds, but I made it up as I went along,” said Rouh. The goal is to have the gazebo, including its floor, completed by the end of the year.

“I had the broad view that it would be flowers and birds, but I made it up as I went along,” said Rouh. “Of course, my labor is going way over the time allotment paid by the grant…it’s a labor of love, for sure.”

Visitors to what’s also known as Mom’s Park, named for Patricia Austin, late wife of the late former Mayor Ed Austin, can see a great blue heron, an osprey, an anhinga and other birds among the greenery, flowers and butterflies – all carefully constructed from small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials.
“I made some tiles just for fun, like the dogs, because everyone’s walking their dogs here,” the art teacher explained. It was mostly done free hand but “the only thing I sketched was an outline of a bird to make sure the proportions were right.”

Rouh’s goal is to have the gazebo, including its floor, completed by the end of the year. According to Ken Rouh, the floor will go much more quickly as they are enlisting the help of seniors and youth to assemble the lilypads, flowers and koi on mesh, which is then laid on the concrete surface.

“Since I have a head start on the floor, it’s going to go together quickly, plus I’m very motivated to get it done. It’s obvious I’ve put tons of work into this project,” she said.

“When you do it one at a time it’s not as overwhelming as if you knew how many pieces there were. I’m one of those crazy people who don’t mind just one piece at a time,” laughed Rouh.

The couple has taken on the care and beautification of the park as their personal gift to the neighborhood, much as Ed and Patricia Austin did decades earlier.
“JEA administers the park because it’s a pump station,” said Ken Rouh. “They’ve been very accommodating.” The City mows the lawn but the Rouhs have been taking care of it for more than four years, planting, pruning trees and bushes.

There has been some vandalism in the park over the years. Most recently, after the January death of her father, Rouh installed in the park some statuary and a flagpole that had been at her father’s home. Vandals threw the statuary around and on top of the gazebo and used the flagpole as a battering ram, damaging her supplies trailer.

“Of course, my labor is going way over the time allotment paid by the grant…it’s a labor of love, for sure.”

“Of course, my labor is going way over the time allotment paid by the grant…it’s a labor of love, for sure.”

“There are so many people that are so kind and we’ve had people mysteriously donate things,” Rouh noted. “But on the flip side we’ve had people steal and break and write nasty things on the benches.”

“We do have people that love it and appreciate it,” she concluded. And it’s for those residents that she offers this labor of love.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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