City named top arts destination

Residents here have known this for a long time, but now the rest of the country is clued in: Jacksonville is a pretty incredible arts destination. Readers of AmericanStyle magazine ranked Jacksonville 15th on its list of top arts destinations in the country among big cities with populations of 500,000 or greater. Jacksonville was also the only Florida city named in the big-cities category — a list that includes such global arts destinations as New York, Washington and Chicago.

The magazine named 75 winning cities, divided into small, mid-size and large population categories.

Such accolades were well received by art promoting groups like Downtown Vision, which has been coordinating the popular monthly Art Walks through downtown galleries and buildings. It also organized Off the Grid with the Jacksonville Cultural Council.

“When we launched Art Walk in 2003, we had less than 10 venues and a few hundred patrons,” said Terry Lorince, executive director of Downtown Vision Inc., in an announcement. “Today, more than 40 venues participate each month, attracting thousands of people Downtown.”

Certainly, the historic neighborhoods in Riverside, Avondale and San Marco have anchored the city’s artistic environment — and have been hotbeds for continued growth in this area. The Riverside Arts Market in Riverside has become an artistic mainstay and both the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens and the many smaller galleries in Riverside’s CoRK district and 5 Points have grown in their offerings and facilities over the years. While plans a major art endeavor called The Epoch Project faded this year, interest in an art event on a smaller scale still looms large. Downtown’s contemporary art museum, MOCA, continues to be at the heart of the city’s art and culture scene.

San Marco, San Jose and Ortega also have been promoting artistic experiences through art shows, art and garden parties and other art-related events.

“A healthy arts scene improves a city’s livability and its tourism, and many of the winning cities recognize that,” said Wendy Rosen, publisher of AmericanStyle. “The arts are proven catalysts for economic development and recovery, creating jobs and making opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

Neighborhood art and history has branched out to one of the places where visitors begin to formulate their opinions of Northeast Florida: the Jacksonville International Airport.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is presenting a look back in time at the historic neighborhoods of Riverside and Avondale in the recently opened Sky Gallery located in the central courtyard of JAX Airport, to the left of the Haskell Gallery.

The Sky Gallery originally opened with the exhibition “1940 – 2010, 70 Years of Naval Aviation Excellence, Naval Air Station Jacksonville.”  The current exhibit features the neighborhood, its unique architecture, cultural scene, and local iconic shopkeepers with images and artifacts, many provided by Dr. Wayne Wood, an active history and culture advocate and Avondale resident.


AmericanStyle Top 25 Arts Destinations

BIG CITIES (Populations of more than 500,000)

1. New York City

2. Washington, D.C.

3. Chicago

4. San Francisco, Calif.

5. Boston, Mass.

6. Philadelphia, Pa.

7. Albuquerque, N.M.

8. Seattle, Wash.

9. Austin, Texas

10. Baltimore, Md.

11. Los Angeles, Calif.

12. Portland, Ore.

13. Columbus, Ohio

14. Denver, Colo.

15. Jacksonville, Fla.

16. Nashville, Tenn.

17. San Diego, Calif.

18. Charlotte, N.C.

19. Dallas, Texas

20. Las Vegas, Nev.

21. San Antonio, Texas

22. Houston, Texas

23. Louisville, Ky.

24. Tucson, Ariz.

25. Phoenix, Ariz.

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