ArtWalk and Downtown Artspots

by Madeline Peck
At April’s Art Walk, it was rainy, gloomy, and relatively empty. Dressed in snow boots doing double-duty as rain boots, I braved the weather because the Greenleaf Gallery was hosting their first opening, and because I’d heard that great things were going down at the Hayden Burns Library.
As the galumphing sound of my boots accompanied me to my first stop, the Greenleaf Gallery, I had time to ponder how far Downtown has come since I first moved to Jacksonville (well, it was that or expend undo energy on the Rosanna Rosannadanna makeover occurring on my head). The streets, emptier than on most Art Walks, reminded me of the early years of this century. When the new library was still years away, when one could still get lost in the creepy-yet-comforting stacks of the library’s basement, when Ryan Rummel ran his gallery, and some of my friends lived in old, relatively unrehabbed lofts and quasi-commercial spaces. They were good times when before things were sanctioned by the city and when parking was always available.
Lots of things have changed since then, mostly for the better-though occasionally I miss those days when Downtown seemed like a place to be discovered and explored.
Now, though Downtown still struggles, it is no longer the ghost town it used to be after 6 pm. The Greenleaf Gallery is in the building of the same name. Largely organized by architect Michael Dunlap, the current show at the gallery is the 2009 Southlight Reunion Show. Southlight was a group of loosely affiliated photographers who worked together, supported one another, and from which several photographers emerged. The Reunion show runs through the end of May, so be sure to visit during May’s Art Walk.
MOCA Jacksonville also has several events scheduled including a cross-neighborhood Artist’s Studio Tour, a new exhibit, and an interactive project with the fourth grade students from S. P. Livingston Elementary School.
The studio tour is designed as a glimpse into the ways artists live and work. A weekend event, the tour takes place May 30 and 31. Artists confirmed for participation include: John Bunker, Daryl Bunn, Ian Chase, Sarah Crooks-Flaire, Andrea DeFlorio, Nofa Dixon, Jim Draper, David Engdahl, Mark Estlund, Shannon Estlund, Tom Hager, Ali Isabelle, mactruQue, Leigh Murphy, David Ponsler, and Tony Rodrigues.
The new exhibit, Balance and Power: Performance and Surveillance in Video Art takes a stab at negotiating the question of when surveillance becomes performance and vise versa. According to the museum, this exhibition examines both the early days of video art and current practices. It is an attempt to understand the complex relationship between the issues of performance, surveillance, and power. Included in the exhibition are works by some of the earliest practitioners, large-scale installations, newly commissioned pieces, and Jordan Crandall’s new film, Homefront.
The Hayden Burns Library, which currently acts as one of the hubs for Art Walk, is eventually scheduled for renovations and conversion to a multi-use space. In response to rumors that the April Art Walk was the last for the space. organizer Gray Solomon says that “It is a centerpiece of Downtown,” and that it will be part of Art Walk through July,
Finally, the artist mactruQue is working on a new experimental space in the Landing, Pier 154 (sponsored by the Landing and Downtown Vision). The artist, who has been working on his music for the past eight years in conjunction with his painting, sees the space as a kind of informal, multi-disciplinary space, with his project, The Southern Gothic Gospel Sideshow Revival anchoring it. “It (hopefully) should be a harmony between what is happening visually and musically,” says mactruQue.
Illustrated with storyboards, paintings, and costume prototypes for a rock opera he’s working on, the transition from retail space to open studio is slowly occurring. As he talks about it, it’s clear that although he has an idea of how he’d like the Pier to function, it’s also clear he hopes for an organic evolution. About the Pier he remarks, “We are the experiment.” And perhaps, in a larger sense-especially thinking about Downtown-that statement rings especially true.
In fact, mactruQue is not entirely sure how long the space will be active. Initially he plans to make friends and colleagues welcome by encouraging those who want to create to follow their own ideas. “This is an offbeat cultural thing with a vision that’s clear.” He goes on to say that though he’s curious about ideas of novelties and a culture of souvinirism, “really, none of this has anything to do with selling anything…[its about] a good solution to a micro-culture, and encouraging those who should be doing artwork.”
Incidentally, the artist will be showing a group of new works at Flux Gallery in 5 Points. The show opens May 1, and runs through the month.