Streetscape art enhances Downtown

Streetscape art enhances Downtown
Aundra Wallace, chief executive officer of Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority, Cultural Council Director of Art in Public Places Christie Holechek, and Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nathaniel P. Ford stand in front of a newly-painted skyway pillar on Hogan Street April 4.

Downtown Jacksonville is looking prettier by the day as several notable artists have brightened up the city with “streetscape” art.

During a dedication ceremony April 4 in front of Iberia Bank on Hogan Street, several city officials, artists and members of the Cultural Council gathered to honor the near completion of Phase I of the Cultural Council’s Art in Public Places initiative in the downtown core.

Included among the dignitaries who spoke at the dedication were Aundra Wallace, chief executive officer of Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority and a Southbank resident, Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., chief Executive Officer of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Christie Holechek of Riverside, director of Art in Public Places (APP), Christina Parrish of Springfield, chairman of APP, and Tony Allegretti, executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, a San Marco resident.

At Phase I’s completion this spring, more than 34 functional and aesthetic pieces will adorn the area around Hogan, Monroe, Duval, Adams, Bay, and Forsyth Streets, known as the Retail Enhancement area.

Cecilia Lueza, an artist from South Florida, spray paints a mural on a skyway column on Hogan Street April 4.

Cecilia Lueza, an artist from South Florida, spray paints a mural on a skyway column on Hogan Street April 4.

Funded by Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority (DIA), 17 decorative murals painted by Andrew Reid SHEd of Miami and Cecilia Lueza of South Florida will grace skyway pillars along Hogan and Bay Street. UNF Sculptor Lance Vickery created eight bike racks, while his wife, UNF Sculptor Jenny Hager created seating on Hogan Street near Hemming Park. Painter Michelle Weinberg embellished seven traffic signal cabinets and Sculptor Rafael Consuegra provided an iconic sculpture on Laura Street. In total the six artists commissioned to complete Phase 1 produced more than 30 pieces of art.

“The Downtown Investment Authority recognizes that public art, along with continued investment by the DIA to increase retail, office, and residential opportunities, are important elements of furthering the renaissance of Downtown,” said Wallace. “The Urban Arts and Façade Program is one of several investments made by DIA, including the funding and creation of Downtown’s first free public Wi-Fi program, to enhance the pedestrian experience and vibrancy of Downtown. Thanks to the Cultural Council, its executive director, staff, and talented group of artists, Phase 1 exceeds expectations.”

The DIA urban arts initiative comprises three phases and will take about four years to complete, said Parrish. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see the art that has already been completed as a result of this process,” she said, adding that Phase 2 is currently being planned and will seek to revitalize the Elbow area of Downtown near the Florida Theatre.

At present, all three phases will take place within the City’s Community Redevelopment Agency’s retail enhancement boundaries on the Northbank of the St. Johns River, said Holechek. Although there is an interest in also beautifying areas of the Southbank, that area of Downtown is not in the scope of the initiative, she said.  “We are putting our focus here first, and in following years to come we will make the transition over the river as well,” she said. “We know the Southbank is on the horizon for the future.”

Ford said JTA was pleased to be part of the urban arts initiative. “The vibrant paintings on the Skyway columns help create a sense of place and revitalize Downtown,” he said. “The art is an important part of the Skyway as we move forward to implement the Ultimate Urban Circulator system or U2C.”

Adhering to the City’s Art in Public Places ordinance, enacted in 1997, APP convened an art selection panel of nine community members to select the six artists from a pool of regional artists who responded to its call last year.

Allegretti said he has been pleased with the artists’ interaction with the community and the positive response Jacksonville citizens have had to seeing public art pop up along the city streets. “Public art is free and accessible to all,” he said. “Public art contributes to our quality of life and helps build the character of our unique spaces. We are thrilled to be ushering in new and compelling work to our city center and very much look forward to the next two phases of this brilliant DIA initiative.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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