A Sparkling Success

“Jacksonville definitely showed up.”

Heading into One Spark, Bret Lawrence was a little worried that the hype had oversold the event. But standing in a packed Hemming Plaza shortly before the closing ceremony April 21, she was convinced it was the real thing.

Lawrence runs community outreach for The Wall, “a multi-tablet installation that encourages people to participate, share, create and explore meaningful media in a public space,” according to the project’s pitch. Her team of co-creators, including public radio show “State of the Re:Union” host Al Letson, learned their project won the most votes in the technology category and $3,466.29.

Jacksonville showed up, indeed. One Spark organizers estimated 130,000 people attended the five-day festival where more than 50,000 verified votes were cast for about 450 projects.

The project that received the largest chunk of the $250,000 crowdfund — Rethreaded at $6,768.42 — received about 2.7 percent of the vote. That means most creators should receive at least a small check in four to six weeks.

Todd Herring, marketing director of the Art Prize festival that served as a model for One Spark, told the closing ceremony crowd that Grand Rapids, Mich., which has a population of around 200,000, draws more than 400,000 people to its event. The Jacksonville metropolitan area has more than 1 million.

“Imagine the potential of this event,” he said.

More than 40,000 people rode the Skyway April 17-20, according to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. The trains were packed with first-timers who studied the map of Skyway stations, double- and triple-checking that they were going the right way.

Shad Khan’s Stache Investments will choose five to seven projects, to be named in June or July, and work with them to build their ventures in Jacksonville. That money will be a game-changer for these start-ups.

I don’t have $1 million to hand out, but here are a few of my favorite projects.

Riverpool Project: Todd Ebeltoft is a University of Cincinnati architecture graduate student from Orange Park who wants tourists to think of more than the St. Johns Town Center when they visit Northeast Florida. During an internship in Amsterdam, Ebeltoft visited the Copenhagen Harbour Baths, a series of swimming pools that are part of an effort to improve that city’s water quality. When Ebeltoft heard about One Spark, he and his co-creator, Preston Ashby, decided to enter their big idea: a series of pools attached to the Riverwalk behind The Jacksonville Landing surrounded by decks, restaurants and a kayak launch. The pools would contain river water cleaned by a series of filters and recycled back into the river. They estimate the project would cost $20 million; right now, they’re just trying to raise enough money to promote the idea.

Yarn Bomb: Yarn bombing turns graffiti into a 3D tactile experience — and it doesn’t damage property. Downtown was enveloped in bright, beautiful crocheted coverings on streetlight poles, bike racks, fences, trees and handrails. I hope Jackie Kuhn and her fellow fiber artists get enough One Spark money to keep Jacksonville soft and snuggly.

Murals: Several public art projects turned Downtown into a giant canvas. Shaun Thurston’s 20 Murals in a Year project aims to complete as many public art pieces in a year as possible. During One Spark, he worked on a mural on the back of the building that houses Burro Bar, Chomp Chomp and Icon, located on Adams Street and visible from Newnan. He recently completed a fantastical floating island painting above the Chamblin’s Uptown sign on Laura. Cris Dam’s Urban Mural Project enlists children in creating public art. SeeSAW (See Savannah Art Walls) completed a mural celebrating creative fire and renewal on the side of the Burro Bar building visible from Forsyth Street.

Farms: Judging by the number of farming projects entered, the local farm-to-table movement is in full swing. They aim to get fresh, locally grown food to those who need it most. The Food Park Project wants to install naturally sustainable parks filled with edible plants throughout this area, using the fundamentals of permaculture. How about turning Main Street Park, where their booth was located, into one?

Technology: There are many inventive technology projects that further cement Northeast Florida as a hub for innovation: Restroom Alert, software to help businesses provide clean, well-stocked and fully functional public restrooms with smartphone feedback from customers; Aurora, a mobile app to enable you to unlock tracks of local music depending your location; MomentStrong, an app that lets users specify times or locations where they know they’ll need help with health or wellness lifestyle challenges; and MiBar, an automated bartender. There are dozens more.

One Spark’s organizers learned from other cities’ events and will incorporate this year’s lessons into 2014’s event. Here are some of my suggestions:

A denser footprint: Several creators lacked much foot traffic because their booths were off the beaten path or required an elevator ride. It was hard to compete with the gravitational pull of Hemming Plaza. Why wasn’t Snyder Memorial Church a venue? Or City Hall? Now that they’ve seen the first event, more businesses will want to participate next year.

Take advantage of Sunday: Voting closed at 11 a.m. April 21. For those who go to church Downtown, Sunday afternoon would’ve been a great time to take part. Voting could be extended until 3 p.m. Sunday, with the closing ceremony at 5 p.m.

More food trucks: The Food Village could 
have been twice the size if the long lines were any indication. And they were sorely missed in the entertainment district on Saturday night when a late-night grilled cheese would have hit the spot.

The streets of Downtown were transformed by One Spark. Jacksonville showed up. Now, what will it take to keep people showing up?