Mosaic mural project draws observers, helpers

Mosaic mural project draws observers, helpers
Samantha Catanese carefully places tiles along the bottom edge of the 448-square-foot Southbank Riverwalk mural

Art in Public Places truly a public work of art

Had the “call for artists” for the Southbank Riverwalk Main Street Bridge mural project gone another way, the process may have been a whole lot different and the outcome, perhaps, viewed in another light.

Fortuitously, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s project description to create permanent public art on a 60-foot wall along the newly renovated Southbank Riverwalk included criteria that the project have a level of community engagement.

Dale Burden is a regular at the evening sessions.

Dale Burden is a regular at the evening sessions.

During the 41-day – and night – installation of “Mirrored River: Where Do You See Yourself?” winning artist Kate Garcia Rouh and husband Kenny Rouh have, without a doubt, fulfilled the engagement criteria.

A steady stream of visitors along the St. Johns River’s Southbank have been drawn back again and again as collaborators in the mosaic mural project.

Kate Rouh said that “helpers” have ranged from local residents who regularly come out to affix tiles, to visitors to Jacksonville for spur-of-the-moment participation, and even the homeless.

“We had a young man from Brazil who was in Jacksonville for a week with his job at CXS,” she said. “He came through one night and then came back the next night to work with us for a few hours.”

Rouh noted that a homeless man had also spent a few evenings helping, a similar experience to that when the Rouhs tiled Main Street Park last year.

For that project, Rouh said that many of the “regulars” who hung out at the park decided to participate, likely ensuring the future integrity of the project. Unlike two dimensional art, which may not be sacrosanct from graffiti, the mosaic art that the Rouhs create is appreciated by everyone.

Judy Robertson enjoys meeting people from all over the city.

Judy Robertson enjoys meeting people from all over the city.

The couple’s willingness to allow passers-by and hangers-on to participate in the projects generates a sense of ownership that will surely go a long way in preventing defacement of their artwork. The 448-square-foot mural under the Main Street Bridge is the 67th project granted by the Cultural Council’s Art in Public Places.

One “regular” said she has worked on the mosaic almost since the project began in March and, toward its completion in May, Dale Burden averaged four to five nights a week affixing pieces of ceramic tile and mirror to the concrete façade under the Main Street Bridge.

“So many senses are involved with this project,” Burden said. “Besides the visual focus, you feel the wind through the tunnel, hear sounds of traffic overhead, smell the lingering scent of a cigar…and people come by and make wonderful comments about it.”

Fellow tile affixer Judy Robertson said she appreciated the opportunity to do something for the community and at the same time meet people from all over, sharing her thoughts about the helper from Brazil. “He saw us working one night,” she said. “The next night he came back and worked with us for two hours and said it really helped him unwind.”

Robertson also spoke about the homeless man who had helped often and was very enthusiastic about the project. “He was a delight to work with,” she said.

Kate Garcia Rouh

Kate Garcia Rouh

Samantha Catanese, who by day is a preschool teacher at Little Friends Preschool, located at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, first encountered Roux Art when she saw their Song Bird display in Hemming Park. “Kenny introduced us to the project at One Spark and I decided to check this out,” said Catanese. “My favorite thing about this project is that they allowed the community to collaborate. It’s a cool thing to give back.”

Back at the Southbank, for those who paused on their stroll along the Riverwalk to affix a tile or two, as well as for the stalwart helpers, the answer to the Mirrored River question is clear: they will forever see themselves in this magnificent piece of public art.

Kenny Rouh

Kenny Rouh

Kate Rouh placed the last piece of tile on the mosaic on May 12 (Photo courtesy of RouxArt)

Kate Rouh placed the last piece of tile on the mosaic on May 12 (Photo courtesy of RouxArt)

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