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."
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.
Lena Shaqareq came to the US with her family as immigrants in 1993. She and her family are Palestinian but were living in Qatar, a peninsular country in the Middle East along the shore of the Persian Golf. As a teenager in Jacksonville, Shaqareq attended high school at the Stanton College Preparatory School, the oldest continually operating high school in Florida. After graduating high school, she enrolled at the University of North Florida (UNF) where she earned a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in Elementary Education. Shaqareq re-enrolled at UNF and obtained a Master's Degree in Adult Education, with a concentration in Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL).
After completing her Master's, Shaqareq began working with the College of Education at UNF. There, she taught the undergrad TESOL courses and eventually became the ESOL Coordinator for the university. Now, Shaqareq serves as the President of Northeast Florida TESOL. She is also the Former Vice President of the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education.
Changing Hearts and Minds Doesn’t Happen Overnight - 10 Questions with Mixed Media Artist and Community Catalyst Tracie Thornton
Southern-born artist Tracie Thornton creates 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional mixed media works under the moniker Thorn. Her work combines post consumer packaging and textiles with printmaking and assemblage to create collages, sculptures, and wearable body adornments. The elements that Thorn uses in her work are every day objects that she has collected from all over, saving them from being discarded and eventually finding a way to give them a second life.
Thornton is gracious with her time. She currently serves on the City of Jacksonville's Art in Public Places Committee, who, along with Cultural Council staff, are responsible for overseeing the growth and management of the City's official public art collection. Additionally, Thornton founded Renewed Community Initiatives (RECi), a grassroots community service organization. In early 2018, RECi received a grant to fund several small scale-scale beautification projects in the Harborview neighborhood of Jacksonville. The projects will illustrate how small changes can make big differences. One project that is slated to be funded from this grant is a mural located off Soutel Drive. The organization is requesting that artists submit to them their qualifications to be considered for the project, which has a $2,500 budget. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Located at 2670 Phyllis Street is Space 42. A former industrial warehouse, this 22,000 square foot building now serves the community as a place where art, technology, and creative entrepreneurship converge. The ambitious team behind Space 42, which includes wife and husband duo Michelle and Kevin Calloway, are building upon multi-faceted aspirations to plant a beacon in the ground near the corner of Roselle and King in an effort to proudly transmit to the surrounding world that cool things exist there. And, in even larger terms, that cool things exist in Jacksonville, Florida.
It takes courage, foresight, imagination, and a healthy tolerance for risk to take on a project as substantial as converting a structure the size of Space 42. Truth be told, it's the type of conversion that pipe dreams are made of but few individuals actually have the vision and access to resources that allow them to pursue. That said, those involved with Space 42 are proving what is possible with the right plan of attack and the right team of associates leading the charge. Through it all, however, the team also acknowledges that there is a learning curve for this type of transformative initiative and it requires one to be adaptive, willing to admit what they don't know, and also okay with learning from trial and error.
The Empowerment People Feel When They Are Included - 10 Questions with Kate and Kenny Rouh of RouxArt
The City of Jacksonville, through its Art in Public Places Program as administered by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, maintains a permanent public collection of more than 115 artworks and memorials throughout Duval County. For those who may not be familiar with the term "public art," public art refers to art in any media, including murals, sculpture, memorials, integrated or landscaped architectural work, photography, digital media, and mosaics, that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain. Public art is most impactful when it is site-specific, meaning it has been designed in response to the place and community in which it resides. It can be a powerful tool to communicate the history of a place, its people, and even address social or environmental issues. Because it is public, the art is free and accessible to everyone.
Of the City's collection, no piece may be more iconic than "Mirrored River: Where Do You See Yourself." Created in 2015 along Jacksonville's Southbank, "Mirrored River" is a tile, mirror, and pebble mosaic of the St. Johns River. For an especially enchanting experience, view the artwork at sunset to be engulfed in a combination of soothing colors as both the skyline, river, and surrounding blue lights reflect off the mirrors and enhance the blue and green tiles that create the artwork. Examine the piece with a closer eye and hidden within it you will find five quotes about the St. Johns River.
Art is a Spiritual Practice - 10 Questions with Filipino American Visual and Performing Artist Grace Bio
Grace Bio is an Filipino American illustrator, graphic designer, mixed media artist, and performing artist. Born in Key West, Florida, she was raised in a Navy family and traveled extensively until she and her family settled in Jacksonville in 1991. After graduating high school, Bio spent time attending Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) and Flagler College.
Since 2006, Bio has performed and exhibited her visual art throughout the United Sates. Starting in 2012 and continuing for nearly four years, Bio served as the Art Director for Education Through Entertainment and Art Partnerships, a Jacksonville based education company that provides students with educational instruction through project-based music and film production, technology training, and language arts. By making use of a curriculum rooted in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), students are taught to develop the social, critical, and technological abilities that are required for collaborative and innovative progress. Her work as a graphic designer was featured in a series of educational children's books which have been utilized by educators nationwide.
Bio's work has a strong, visual signature of urban culture, while also being poetic and evocative. Through her work, she brings awareness to the modern world while also paying tribute to the people and traditions of yesteryear. In 2018, Bio had work on exhibit as part of "Living History: A Cultural Mosaic" and "Writing On the Walls," both exhibits at the Jacksonville Public Library's Jax Makerspace Gallery.
10 Questions with Visual Artist, Art Educator, and Director of Art in Public Places, Christie Thompson Holechek
Christie Thompson Holechek is a third-generation native to Jacksonville. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of North Florida (UNF) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studio and Theory from Portland, Maine's Maine College of Art.
For the past 18 years, Holechek has served Jacksonville in leadership positions including arts administration, secondary education, and youth arts programming with a mission to make arts and culture accessible to all. Since 2010, she has held the position of Director of Art in Public Places (APP), the City of Jacksonville's Percent for Art program that is administered by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Holechek is also an adjunct professor in 2-D Design and Drawing at her alma mater, UNF, and maintains an active studio practice.
Community Building Through Public Art - 10 Questions with Art Educator Amanda Holloway and Students of James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School
Earlier this month, a dynamic collective of local businesses, artists, educators, and community leaders teamed up to facilitate a community driven public art project on the exterior façade of Knopf & Sons Bindery, located at 1817 Florida Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32206. The 150’ mixed-media mural, appropriately named Dream Big, is on an exterior wall along E 8th Street, which receives heavy foot traffic due to its proximity to a JTA bus stop and heavy vehicle traffic due to its proximity to on-and-off ramps for the Martin Luther King Jr Parkway.
The mural, which was designed by students from James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School and their art teacher, Amanda Holloway, was inspired by Taylor Richardson, a 7th grade student at The Boles School who has aspirations of becoming a scientist, engineer, and an astronaut. Richardson recently raised over $100,000 through a crowdsourcing campaign to sponsor 1,000 young girls to see Disney's “A Wrinkle in Time” in theaters at no expense.