New San Marco Mural Invites People to “Be the Focus”

New San Marco Mural Invites People to “Be the Focus”
Hearts 4 Minds Co-founder Sheryl Johnson and David Nackashi cut the ribbon for the new mural located at 2011 San Marco Blvd.

Hearts 4 Minds unveils 11th mural in Murals with Meaning program

August 19 was a special day for Sheryl Johnson.

Not only was it the unveiling of the 11th mural in the Hearts 4 Minds’ Murals with Meaning program; it was also her son Alex’s birthday. Alex is the inspiration and driving force behind the creation of Hearts 4 Minds, the nonprofit organization Johnson co-founded with her husband, Todd, dedicated to leading the charge to break down the stigma of mental illness and alter how we look at mental health.

Alex took his life in 2017 after struggling with anxiety and depression.

He would have been 29 years old on the Saturday Johnson unveiled Hearts 4 Minds’ “Be the Focus” mural, created by artist David Nackashi, on the Bank of America wall facing Balis Park in San Marco Square.

A pair of delicate, white dragonfly wings adorn the wall, inviting people to stand at its center to be the dragonfly in photos. The wings stand out against a backdrop of blurry circles of light.

The mural’s installation took just 15 hours, according to Nackashi. He has done several other murals in the Hearts 4 Minds and said the organization is “a good nonprofit for [him] to feel good about making something for.”

“Mental health, and art, and hardships, and loss kind of go hand-in-hand,” he said. “Some of the best art’s made or inspired by hardship, so this just kind of falls in line with what I think should dominate the big walls of Jacksonville.”

Each mural in the Murals with Meaning program has two fixed elements, Johnson explained in a pre-unveiling interview: One is a QR code that brings viewers to an informational website regarding mental health that also provides all available resources in Jacksonville for those seeking help; the second is the inclusion of a dragonfly, the symbol the organization uses to promote and raise awareness for the importance of mental health.

The Murals with Meanings program has installed murals throughout Jacksonville. Last December, The Resident News covered the unveiling of another mural in Avondale at Talbot and St. Johns avenues. Johnson said public art is a “softer way” to start a conversation surrounding mental illness and invite people to educate themselves further.

“It allows us to create a legacy for Alex that he wasn’t able to do,” she said. “We know if just one single person gets help from knowing that that QR code can take them to an information page, then we’ve done our job.”

While it was not involved in the mural’s creation, the San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) was “really excited to support” Hearts 4 Minds and its new San Marco mural and was present for the unveiling.

“We have been a proponent and supporter of public art in San Marco for many decades,” said Linzee Ott, a member of the SMPS board of directors. “We’re really excited to see this previously blank wall activated with such a beautiful piece of art.”

Later in the month, on Aug. 25, Hearts 4 Minds unveiled another San Marco mural, created by Heartspace Art, at Kava & Company.

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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