Art Matters Because It’s In Our DNA - 10 Questions with Sheri Verile, Chief of Security at MOCA Jacksonville
At the time of reporting, there were 291 full-time employees and 413 part-time employees who worked for the 26 non-profit arts organizations in Duval County that received public funding through the City of Jacksonville's Cultural Service Grant Program (CSG) during fiscal year 2016-2017. Add on top of that another 539 independent contractors and 14,776 volunteers. These figures are used to illustrate the fact that a lot of individual and collective efforts go into developing, marketing, and delivering engaging cultural programs and activities that make Jacksonville a better place to live, work, and visit.
Many of these individuals go unseen by the patron's eye as they work behind the scene to execute their organization's mission. But, one employee at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA) has taken a role that is traditionally viewed as authoritarian and has elevated it into a role that includes patron engagement, customer service, education, and being a cultural ambassador. That employee is Sheri Verile, MOCA's Chief of Security.
On Thursday, July 19, the public had an opportunity to engage with the artists and artist groups that have been commissioned for Phase II of the DIA Urban Arts Project. A meeting was held at the Jax Makerspace inside the Jacksonville Public Library's Main Branch. A LOT of valuable input was garnered during this meeting. One attendee described Jacksonville as a kaleidoscope because of the city's wealth of diversity. Many in the audience communicated the need for better representation for people of color and the need for properly sharing Jacksonville's history and authentic identity. At the close of the meeting, all artists thanked the audience for their input and expressed that they see themselves as civil servants and will do their best to honor Jacksonville's residents through the work that they create.
Four artists/artist teams have been awarded commissions in connection to Phase II of the Downtown Investment Authority's Urban Arts Project. Phase II is slated for installation in 2019 in the entertainment district of downtown Jacksonville, known as The Elbow. A total of 114 applicants applied and a nine-member panel of community representatives reviewed applications for the demonstrated ability to address streetscape aesthetics with innovative, functional, and artistically appealing 2-D and 3-D public art. The four commissions were awarded to:
All artists arrived in Jacksonville this week to inform their artist design through a range of community engagement opportunities. On Wednesday, July 18, the group met at Jax Chamber for an in-depth information session about Jacksonville and The Elbow. Artists and stakeholders were then led on a walking tour of The Elbow to identify possible locations for public art.
On Thursday, July 19, the public is invited to engage directly with the artists at the Jax Makerspace inside the Jacksonville Public Library's main branch. It's a great opportunity to be a part of the public art process by sharing your opinions of, and aspirations for, Jacksonville with the artists. The event starts at 6:00 PM.
You are also invited to take a Phase II Stakeholder Survey.
The Arts Do Improve Quality of Life - 10 Questions with JaMario Stills, Founder of Phase Eight Theater Company
JaMario Stills believes that the arts and creativity should be woven into the fabric of every day life. Don't believe that this is possible? Stop and think about how fashion designers utilize artistic skillsets to create the clothes you're wearing. Reflect on the music that you listen to as you workout at the gym, make your daily commute, or prepare dinner. Consider the architecture that makes up Jacksonville's cityscape and the murals, mosaics, and sculptures that accentuate our visual landscape. And if you still needed more reaffirming, mull over the book you're reading to wind down after a long day. These are all small examples of how the arts are present in our daily lives. Yet how often do you actually pause to let stew how much the arts add beauty to life and have the potential to liberate the human spirit?
Stills has dedicated himself to assisting others in realizing that the arts matter. A Jacksonville native who graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in 2000, Stills eventually left Jacksonville to attended the prestigious Juilliard School in New York, where he received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Drama and Theatre Arts. After returning to Jacksonville, he began serving his community by joining the staff at The Performers Academy, a non-profit arts education hub for youth who have an interest in the performing arts, and serving on the Board of Directors for Players by the Sea, a non-profit community theatre located at Jacksonville Beach. In 2014, Stills was appointed by the Mayor of Jacksonville to sit on the Cultural Council's Board of Directors, a position he still holds. He also currently serves on the City's Art in Public Places Committee.
In 2016, Stills identified an opportunity to expand his impact on the community, which led to the formation of Phase Eight Theater Company. As a company, Phase Eight is devoted to fostering great actors through contemporary performances that are to be shared with modern audiences. It is their aspiration to be Florida's premier theater institution by developing new voices for the American stage.
Projects Are More Fun When They Involve Others - 10 Questions with Writer Jared Rypkema, Founder and Publisher of Bridge Eight Literary Magazine
Writer Jared Rypkema is the founder and publisher of Bridge Eight Literary Magazine. Published twice a year, Bridge Eight includes short stories and poems loosely tied to a central theme. Contributions to the literary magazine come from writers across the country. Each issue also showcases one visual artist whose work is featured on the cover and within the pages of the magazine.
Bridge Eight represents and evolution of an idea. Rypkema saw a need to bring together Jacksonville's writing community. With this need identified, he formed Left on Mallory, a small group of writers who met each week at Rypkema's home in Riverside. Rypkema's ambitions and vision didn't end with Left on Mallory; he sensed the need for something more substantial, something that showcased the great writers of our region. With no previous experience in publishing, but with the blessing from Jacksonville's established writers, Rypkema began the work to create a printed literary magazine.
Success is a Bi-Product of Cultivating Value - 10 Questions with Actor and Writer Rebecca Thompson, Co-Founder of Creative Veins Performing Arts Studio
Rebecca Thompson was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. In early 2014, when co-producing a film in Atlanta, she was faced with escalating location and studio costs. To remedy these costs, Thompson suggested to her partner that they move the production to Northeast Florida. This decision saved the production financially but it also created a new challenge, finding trained talent to bring their script to life.
After the production wrapped up, Thompson reflected on the experience and the advantages of working in Jacksonville, which included lower production costs and proximity to the major television and film production hubs in the Southeast’s now booming market. She knew that if she wanted to bring more productions to Jacksonville she needed to provide professional training to progress the region's talent to the next level. From this, Creative Veins Performing Arts Studio was formed.
In 2011, Robert Walker, who was born in Jacksonville but raised in Atlanta, was inspired by a hip-hop DJ to go beyond simply admiring photography to learning more about the artistic discipline. Though he held photographers such as Gordon Parks, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Richard Avedon in high regards, it was D-Nice, known by most for his role in the legendary 1980s hip hop group Boogie Down Productions (whose members also included KRS-One and La Rock), that made Walker feel as though he himself was capable of taking great pictures. D-Nice hit a patch of hard times in the 90s and early 2000s but eventually reinvigorated his career through his exploration into the world of photography. With every picture he posted, D-Nice would list the equipment he used when capturing the images. This insight served Walker as both inspiration and a source of education regarding the technical aspects of manual photography, camera bodies, and lenses.
D-Nice, albeit from afar, served as an educator to Walker. As a self-taught photographer, Walker turned to YouTube for additional guidance. He used the video sharing website as an open source platform to learn and gain wisdom regarding all things photography. But, Walker didn't start his journey with elaborate equipment. With limited resources available to him, Walker started his journey as a photographer using something that he already carried with him everyday, his iPhone.
The “Greenist” Products Are The Ones That Are Already Made - 10 Questions with Gwen Meking Whittle, the Artist Behind Aunt Gwen
In 2016, Gwen Meking Whittle spent nearly half a year traveling across the United States. Like William Least Heat-Moon, as documented in "Blue Highways: A Journey into America," and John Steinbeck, as documented in "Travels with Charley in Search of America," Whittle set out to discover the people and places that comprise the United States of America. Through her travels, she hoped to come upon a place that drew her in, a city where she could feel comfortable planting some roots. Her journey led her back to her home state of Florida, specifically though to the city of Jacksonville.
Whittle grew up along Florida's Treasure Coast in the relatively small town of Stuart. As a young adult, Whittle left South Florida in search of someplace different, a place that better embraced those who live on the fringe of mainstream in America's counter and alternative culture scenes. For at least a while, Whittle found what she was looking for in New Orleans. Perhaps it is worth noting that she left the Big Easy and eventually found herself in a city whose marketing byline is now "It's Easier Here."
If Duval County had a hip hop hall of fame Willie Evans Jr., whose real name is Niam Jones, would certainly be one of the portraits on display. He established himself as a solo MC before co-founding Asamov, a 904 based hip hop group, alongside DJ Therapy (Paten Locke), Ja-One-Da (Joe Cox), and Basic (Vladimir Decastro). Those who were present in Jacksonville's hip hop scene in the early 2000s fondly remember the super group for both their comical antics and the quality of the material that they produced. During live performances, each of Asamov's members took turns on the mic and all but J-One-Da rotated in as DJ.
In 2002, when albums were still tangible, the group released their debut album titled "The Blow Your Whistle EP." The album was released by 6 Hole Records, a record label based in Duval that released 20+ albums between 2002 and 2007. In 2005, Asamov released the acclaimed album "And Now...," which was nationally distributed and received positive reviews from sources such as Okayplayer, Billboard, and URB Magazine. But, at the height of their success, the group received a cease and desist order from the estate of late American science-fiction writer and professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov. This resulted in a name change, with the group then going by the name The Alias Brothers, also referred to as The AB's.
Portraying Narratives Through Many Lenses - 10 Questions with Multidisciplinary Artist Susan Gibbs Natale
Susan Gibbs Natale is not a Jacksonville native. In fact, she isn't even native to the South. She was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in the North. Natale spent her formative years in Brooklyn and on Long Island and a large portion of her adult life in Manhattan and the mountains of Pennsylvania.
Natale began visiting Jacksonville in 2012 to relocate her aging father-in-law and be near to her then pregnant daughter. Natale fell in love with the First Coast's creatively fertile grounds. She quickly became a part of the arts community by mounting initiatives such as a 20' air puppet and the Sparkmobile at ONESPARK, directing and performing in the Jacksonville Historical Society's annual "Halloween Party at the Casket Factory," and other community based projects, such as exhibiting with the Northeast Florida Sculptors at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. Through these creative and communal endeavors, Natale blossomed as an artist.
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