Art For Everyone

by Dylan Klempner
The variety of artistic expressions in Jacksonville often generates much discussion. The debate often focuses on how and what art to place in public places and how to direct funding. On July 13, an important discussion is being held to raise public awareness and enjoyment of art in Jacksonville. “Why Art Matters: An Arts Roundtable” brings together a group of community artisans and business leaders to discuss these art-related issues at the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens on Riverside Ave.
Last year taxpayers in Jacksonville invested $3 million in arts organizations, says Amy Crane, Deputy Director of Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. The money was spread out between 27 large and small organizations like the Cummer Art Museum, the Florida Theatre and Friday Musicale. Over time, the Council has also set aside $4 million for public art projects. These funds- raised from local building ordinances tied to new construction- have been used to install roughly 20 artworks throughout the city, in libraries and in public spaces such as those outside the arena and ballpark.
With so much taxpayer money now being allocated to the arts in Jacksonville, the Cummer Art Museum recently announced a timely program scheduled for July 13th, “Why Art Matters: An Arts Roundtable.” During the event local educators, business executives and civic leaders will gather to discuss the importance of art and culture in Jacksonville. Panelists include Martha Barrett, Debra Murphy, David Strickland, Preston Haskell and Larry Wilson. Cummer Curator, Holly Keris will moderate the program, which begins at 7 pm and is free and open to the public.
Katherine Youngberg, the Cummer’s public programs manager, says panelists will weigh in on the influence art has on quality-of-life and discuss the types of programs and purchases citizens might be willing to support.
As a result of the panel’s discussion, Youngberg hopes that the public will “see art as a community benefit.” According to the Council’s Crane, Jacksonville citizens already benefit from the arts in a variety of ways. The arts organizations that taxpayers fund support almost 1000 jobs in the community. Additionally, last year nearly 700,000 people attended events in Jacksonville run by arts organizations and close to 300,000 did so for free.
Crane says that the services provided by these organizations are unlike others in the community, offering cultural amenities and educational programs that reach populations like students and the elderly.
“Art is an intellectual stimulant”, says roundtable panelist Preston Haskell, Chairman of the Haskell Company, a Jacksonville-based Design-Build firm. “It increases our appreciation for things of beauty and it generally improves our creativity,” he says. Creativity is an important commodity in Haskell’s business, he says. He uses art in the workplace because it helps him and his colleagues think about architectural design more creatively. This leads to greater customer satisfaction. “When someone is about to spend many millions of dollars on a new building they want it to be functional, they want it to be cost effective, but they also want it to be aesthetically pleasing,” says Haskell.
Panelist David Strickland, President and COO of EverBank of Florida, says that art helps him take time out from his busy work-life and have feelings similar to those he experiences when spending time in nature. Strickland states that public art is also important because everyone should have the opportunity to experience a wide range of art and have the kinds of feelings art can provide. “One of the great things about getting involved with art is that you begin to appreciate and enjoy many different kinds of artistic expression,” says Strickland.
It takes creative minds and boundless energy to address the ever changing art climate of Jacksonville. Balancing the traditional with the fresh and contemporary requires community-wide effort and involvement. “Why Art Matters” offers the public the opportunity to be heard about the public art that we all can enjoy.