For Themselves: Artists in Jacksonville

by Madeleine Peck
It started with good intentions. The September 15, Arts Summit was meant to be a civic-minded meeting of minds whereby the beginnings to art-based solutions could be discussed. But what quickly emerged was a kind of “tack-it-to-the-arts-mentality,” for everything from public funding to public transportation. In fact, the only ideological discourse attempted was by a self-taught, outsider artist who wanted to discuss the implications of the aforementioned terms in discourse.
And of the fifty people in attendance, only about seven claimed the title artist. So the question for that group became how to maintain the social and cultural integrity of artists. Because it seems that everyone is eager to hitch their cart to the art horse, but here in Jacksonville, there seems to be an ingrained resistance to supporting artists where they feel it: in their checking accounts. Of course, this isn’t a blanket statement, but rather a summation of frustrations that are gaining public voice.
Yvonne Lozano, one of the artists in attendance at the Summit, found the focus on art, without acknowledgment of artists’ contributions, or a plan of action to reward/incentivize them inconceivable. She responded to one participant’s exhortation, “everyone is an artist,” with the carefully phrased, “everyone has a creative spirit.”
She explains, “I find it extremely important for all to experience and reap the benefits of participating in the creative arts, but there should be a distinction between someone who enjoys a hobby and someone who is a trained professional.”
Then the topic turned the corner to non-profits and fundraisers, and the seemingly endless contributions artists are asked for. It was then that painter Allison Watson contributed her methodology for donating works of art: a fifty-fifty split with the organization in need. It’s generally a much larger donation than the artist could afford to give in cash, while rewarding the artist for participating.
So after reflecting on what had been said (and unsaid) at the summit, Lozano suggested a fundraiser for artists themselves at the Art Center, where she is a member. The idea was refined, the show titled Guess Who- as all of the works are nominally anonymous- and it was agreed the works should all be approachably sized and priced. Plus, taking a page out of the Imagination Squared project’s playbook, the show is open to all. For the December 6 event, artists where encouraged to created 4 x 6 inch, or, 8.5 x 10 inch original, unsigned, unframed pieces. The works will be sold for twenty or fifty dollars, the proceeds split between the Art Center and the artist.
Since the Center is, for the most part, an artist run co-op, this opportunity to show was made open to the entire community. Not only is this a fund-raiser per se, but also, a socio-political statement by and for artists. As Lozano notes, “We artists are the experts in this field. We need to be valued and respected as such.”
Guess Who opens at the Art Center II Studios, with over 30 artists participating, at 229 N Hogan St on December 4, 6- 9 pm, with a sneak peek during the December Art Walk. Though by the time this article prints, submissions will be closed, it is almost certain this’ll be one show not to miss. With special thanks to Florida Bank for sponsorship help.