A new lion in town: The Aspire Church San Marco mural project

A new lion in town: The Aspire Church San Marco mural project

A new lion is watching over the community of San Marco, this time from a mural along Hendricks Avenue.

When completed, the 83-by-38 foot mural titled “Emergence” will depict a bronze lion shedding its outer shell and emerging as a real lion, representative of new beginnings and fresh starts, explained artist Keith Doles, who was selected by Aspire Church San Marco’s rebranding task force to create the mural.

Community landmarks, including the church’s steeple, San Marco’s theaters and local businesses, will also be included in the mural, tying in the community’s unique features, characteristics, style and architecture.

“We knew we wanted something that celebrated San Marco, the community, the historic nature of the community and we knew we wanted the steeple of the church to feature because it’s such an iconic feature in San Marco,” said Dr. Gary Lee Webber, senior pastor for Aspire Church San Marco.

The mural is the final stage of Aspire Church San Marco’s rebranding journey, which dates back to 2019 after a survey of then-Southside Baptist Church of South Jacksonville revealed there was little name recognition between the church and its location in San Marco. A rebranding task force was formed in 2020 and after presenting name recommendations, the church voted to adopt Aspire Church San Marco as its new name in November 2021.

This mural, Webber said, is both a thank you to the community and a way to further cement the church as a landmark within that community.

“One of the things the rebranding task force wanted to do as part of the rebranding was do a mural on the wall on Hendricks Avenue on the side of the San Marco Community Center just as a way to make our building more noticeable,” he explained. “People drive by it but they don’t necessarily see it. It’s a strange thing to think about, but it’s just this big white building as you drive down Hendricks and it doesn’t have anything remarkable about it.”

Doles began work on the mural at the beginning of August and plans to complete it around Labor Day. Working on the project during evenings and weekends, Doles is joined by his team of fellow artists, who call themselves the “Bridge Muralists.” The group, formed in 2020, is comprised of Doles, Adrian Rhodes, Ramses Spyder Allen, Hanna Hadzic. Khyleah Matthews, Madison Bridge and Sasha Kovalenko are the project’s assistant artists.

“We have this shared passion for creating something positive,” Doles said. “So this mural, or any murals — it doesn’t feel like work at all.”

Doles designed the mural based on task force’s input and worked with them through different iterations before reaching the final design. According to Webber, the planning phase of the mural began in March of this year and included discussions with the San Marco Merchants Association (SMMA) and the San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS).

SMPS President Lauren Carlucci said the society is very excited about the mural and what it will add to the community.

“Public art has always been a focus of SMPS and it really adds a vibrancy to the streetscape that we haven’t had in that area,” she said. “…I think its just gonna add a lot of character to our historic neighborhood.”

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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