Downtown Sculpture Walk

Jacksonville has opened the door to a new venue for sculpture. The Cultural Council’s Spark District in downtown Jacksonville explodes with 13 sculptures to walk through, share, and enjoy starting this September 12th. Thousands of people will have the opportunity to experience a nexus of fascinating and alluring pieces of sculpture vetted for Sculpture Walk Jax, a project led by internationally recognized sculptor Jenny Hager, Associate Professor of Sculpture at University of North Florida (UNF) and their Exhibition Curator. “The Sculpture Walk Jax streetscape exhibition showcases how the energy of sculpture can transform the way people look at this Main Street Park site, our city and our community–it gives us energy from all points,” Hager says. The Grand Opening of Sculpture Walk Jax kicks off with a Tour of Sculpture on Friday, September 12 at 6pm – you and your family will want to be there. This opening coincides with the Connection Festival ( a ticketed, main-stage event featuring local, regional and international live music, yoga sessions, dance, street performances, and art exhibitions, along with technology and business forums. Made possible by the Cultural Council’s “Art in Public Places initiative,” Sculpture Walk Jax will be in place for one year–yes, for four seasons–thus allowing residents and visitors alike to commune singly or together at Main Street Park (325 Main Street, between Duval and Adams streets behind the Jacksonville Public Library – Main Branch). A project of this magnitude led Hager to zero-in on one of the world’s leading sculptors to jury the exhibition: Marsha Pels.

By bringing art to Downtown, it makes the city more open – they venture outside to touch it, be pictured with it – it becomes a landmark.

Hager secured Pels, who has a studio in Brooklyn, to jury the event after meeting her at Miami’s 2013 Art Basel, where they forged a friendship. “I respect her work,” Pels says of Hager, “and she respects mine…[As I was] invited to jury, I tried to make it an exciting show as much as possible. An outdoor site demands specific sculpture. I have a long history of judging and jurying competitions. The world has changed in terms of how sculpture is perceived by the public – the site is very important. I tried to understand the fabric of the pieces, the idea of the narrative and scale,” says Pels, who is internationally known for her labor-intensive, cast and fabricated objects, multi-media installations and site-specific pieces, involving “politically charged” psychological landscapes. Her awards include a Public Art Fund Grant, Prix de Rome, a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to Germany, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2013, an Adolf and Ester Gottlieb Foundation Individual Support Grant. Six local artists have created large-scale work for this Spark project.

Jacksonville artists include Jenny Hager, Sherry Hill, Aisling Millar, Melissa Russell, Lance Vickery and Brett Waller. Regional artists include Robert Coon (Vero Beach), Jason Lake (Orlando) and Joni Younkins-Herzog (Sarasota), along with Hanna Jubran (Grimesville, NC), Andrew Smith (Oxford, MS), and Durant Thompson (Oxford, MS). Susanne Roewer is from Germany. In addition, a sculptural bench by Jenny Hager and two sculptural bike racks by David Main and Lance Vickery, parallel Jacksonville’s new focus on healthy living and bike riding as a primary means of transportation. These outdoor installations are designed to withstand a year’s worth of adverse weather conditions and a high-traffic environment.

The City of Jacksonville’s Department of Parks has been working with Hager and her sponsors to ensure safety and resistance to public interaction, and the Cultural Council is grateful for the role the Department of Parks has played in bringing this project to fruition. All sculptures will be for sale during the exhibition year, but must remain onsite for the duration of the exhibit. Hager’s “Dance of the Jellyfish” sculpture will be moved from the round-a-bout circle on a main road at UNF to the Main Street Park site and installed for the event. Noting her out-of-pocket expenses exceed more than $2,500 for materials, not including extensive time for design and execution, Hager supports the idea of sharing information on costs borne by sculptors for their artwork with the public, so people begin to understand how the value of a piece of sculpture is determined. Her sculpture is listed for $15,000. If purchased during this event, the cost is shared, with a large portion going to the artist, and a smaller percentage going back into the Cultural Council’s fund to sustain the project as an annual event. This is the business of art. The sculpture project is generously co-sponsored by A&K Machine and Fabrication, Atlantic Powder Coating, Auld & White Constructors, Pedroni Cast Stone and Concrete, Harbinger Sign, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, and Preston H. Haskell.

Responsibility comes with purchasing each piece – care and maintenance as well as restoration and conservation is important, as once ownership is taken, the conservation begins.

Jacksonville has long enjoyed the various painting and sculpture collections of philanthropist and art patron Preston Haskell, founder and chairman of the Jacksonville-based Haskell Company. Noting that sculpture can change the way people envision and relate to a city, Haskell states, “We will populate Jacksonville with more than a dozen colorful sculptures, creating excitement like what has happened in Denver, San Francisco, and Johannesburg, South Africa.” In “Joberg,” as he recalls, “sculpture transformed the city.” “By bringing art to Downtown, it makes the city more open – they venture outside to touch it, be pictured with it – it becomes a landmark, like the sculpture I donated and placed in front of MOCA Jacksonville,” says Haskell, who hopes this project leads to the purchase of the sculptures for permanent display in the public plazas around Downtown. “I’ve underwritten three more sculptures to this project,” Haskell continues. He and others are in the process of defining specific places where each could possibly find a home.

The purchase and placement of these sculptures in Downtown Jacksonville is key in establishing future collaborations. Haskell says, “Responsibility comes with purchasing each piece – care and maintenance as well as restoration and conservation is important, as once ownership is taken, the conservation begins.” Haskell believes it’s not just the monetary level, but the community value and community engagement that will give a notable presence to Downtown Jacksonville. He hopes to begin with Downtown then spread this project out into the neighborhoods. “I am willing to approach people and corporations in order to gain support for this project, resulting in a purchase and placement of one of these sculptures in a public plaza for all to enjoy,” Haskell says. As project lead, Jenny Hager wants to make an impact – a HUGE impact. If you have an interest to help sustain this project, funding is being accepted by the Cultural Council, a nonprofit organization, on its website If you wish to donate directly to Sculpture Walk type “Sculpture Walk-Hager” in the donation form for it to help sustain the future of the walk; otherwise, it will be a general donation. Collaborative support is welcome.

About Joanelle Mulrain