“Jacksonville won’t be the same.” That’s what artist Dolf James said about the effect One Spark will have on our burgeoning metropolis.
It’s a bold statement about this Bold City, but he’s got a point.
In case you’ve managed to make it this far without hearing about One Spark, it’s a five-day event (April 17-21) where about 900 entrepreneurs, inventors, musicians and artists will take over Downtown Jacksonville while vying for a piece of the $250,000 prize money.
If you haven’t heard of One Spark, don’t feel bad. Although it has been on the lips of hundreds of true believers — regular Art Walk attendees, Downtown activists, Northeast Florida’s creative class — for several months, there are many who haven’t heard a peep.
It’s not too late. You’re holding this issue of Folio Weekly with eight of the projects featured in our cover story, and the official One Spark guide is tucked inside, listing all the projects, with a map and a complete schedule of activities.
And if none of that convinces you, you’re reading this Editor’s Note, so I have a chance to make a case for why you should attend.
Find What Interests You
“It’s not just an art show, it’s not Art Walk,” James said. “There’s something there for every person.”
Scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, doctors, farmers, techies, environmental activists, educators, artists, musicians, college students, grandparents, kids, parents — everyone.
“It was conceived from virtually day one not to celebrate the arts but to understand that at the pinnacle of every occupation, there is creativity and innovation,” James said. “That is what is exciting, and that is what will broaden the appeal for Jacksonville.”
Get In on the Ground Floor
The people organizing the event envision One Spark as becoming synonymous with Jacksonville like South By Southwest and Austin, Texas, or the Masters Golf Tournament and Augusta, Ga. This is your chance to be there when it all started.
“We’re already looking at what the next five years for One Spark looks like,” said Executive Director Elton Rivas.
Help Hand Out $250,000
How do they decide who gets the money? You decide. The people who attend One Spark vote for the projects they like, and creators get a percentage of the fund, based on the percentage of votes received. So, a creator receiving 10 percent of the public vote would receive 10 percent of the $250,000 crowdfund, or $25,000. You can vote for as many projects as you like, but you can only vote once for each project.
“Think of it as a ‘like’ button,” Rivas said.
Attendees can also donate money directly to creators through the same system that collects votes.
Bring and Build Business
Rivas describes One Spark’s greater role as a “creative marketing engine for building the Jacksonville ecosystem.”
James sees One Spark’s year-round presence as a clearinghouse for what creators need — making contacts, building relationships, promoting Jacksonville as a destination for innovation. If out-of-town creators are interested in relocating to Jacksonville, One Spark could connect them with housing, office space and collaborators.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan has pledged up to $1 million in equity investments for chosen creators through his Stache Investments Corp.
Already, One Spark is fostering collaboration among diverse creators who’ve searched the database to find everything from contractors and lawyers to poets and videographers.
“What comes out of that is the density, the bumping into each other, the sharing of ideas that makes those ideas better,” James said.
Stop the Brain Drain
When Rivas, Dennis Eusebio and Varick Rosete first brainstormed the idea of One Spark in 2011, they wanted to plug the hole that leaks creative energy out of Northeast Florida. Smart, talented people grow up here but feel they have to leave to be successful.
“First we need to stop the brain drain; then we need to reverse it,” James said. “One Spark will go a long way toward that.”
The last time many Northeast Florida residents spent any real time Downtown was during the festival atmosphere of the Super Bowl. But One Spark will top that.
“They’re going to see Downtown look different than they’ve ever seen it before,” James said.
Almost 60 venues will house the creators’ work. There will be stages where creators will pitch their projects and speakers will present myriad topics. Fifty bands will perform — all for free. A food village, including food trucks, will be set up on Laura Street between Adams and Forsyth streets. Alcohol will be allowed throughout the one-square-mile One Spark district. Laura Street from Hemming Plaza to The Jacksonville Landing will be closed to cars.
Artists will be painting murals and doing live drawing. About 30 people will be yarn bombing — creating graffiti using colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn instead of paint or chalk. People will be literally dancing in the streets.
“It’s going to be a really, really good time. Seriously,” Rivas said.
After all the action during the day, bars and restaurants will be hopping with more activity spilling into the streets.
“At night, the entertainment district is going to be absolutely bizarre,” James said. “I wanted to call it ‘the havoc zone.’ Anything that can be done on the street will be done.”
Jacksonville won’t be the same. Don’t you want to be there to see it?