If you’ve been downtown at all over the past few weeks, you may have spotted them suddenly gazing down at you on Forsyth Street during your ride into work, sneaking up on you from the side of a building as you have lunch in Hemming Park, or maybe one caught you by surprise one night while you were grabbing a drink at Burro Bar. What I’m referring to, and what has all of Jacksonville buzzing lately, is the beautiful artwork of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens permanent collection, blown-up and adhered to weather-worn corners, alley walls, and abandoned buildings in the core of downtown Jacksonville.
What you’re seeing is not the work of some random art history-enthusiast graffiti artist. Each of these figures was carefully selected to be placed far away from the sterile gallery walls as a part of Jax Outings, the newest addition to the international Outings Project. The images have a sense of being out of time and place, and their sheer size alone is enough to inspire awe. If the name sounds familiar, you may have noticed #JaxOutings all over social media since its initial unveiling. People are excited, and they should be. With over 70 Outings Project locations around the world, Jacksonville is one of only 16 cities in the United States involved, and one of only two cities in the Southeast to participate. “This is about taking the museum beyond its walls and putting beautiful images of people from our past in direct contact with people where they live, walk, work, and play,” says Cummer Museum Director Hope McMath. “It is also about beautifying buildings, corners, and streets that are hungry for something lovely and engaging!”
Through this, the goal of Jax Outings is to help beautify the downtown area and make artwork from the Cummer Collection more accessible to the people of the city, inspiring interaction and conversation. The chosen figures are primarily from lesser-known works with anonymous subjects, adding to the mystery and allure of the overall experience. They are the people in the works of art you may not notice in a gallery full of more well-known works.
So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive, both from residents and from city building owners who are eager to have their own properties used as a Jax Outings canvas. The wheat paste and paper application results in no property damage, and no images have been installed on buildings without the permission of the building’s owners. This enthusiastic reaction is a clear testament to the desire within the city for more art, more culture, and more beauty. In the coming months, the Cummer Museum has “big plans to add more to the urban core and neighborhoods beyond,” says McMath. Through this expansion, she also hopes to involve youth and volunteer groups in both choosing and installing the images.
Perhaps the best possible outcome would be for people who would not normally engage with artwork to stumble upon it and have an experience with it that they wouldn’t have expected. Spend your lunch hour one day trying to see if you can find all of the hidden images throughout downtown—this is something I attempted a few weeks ago, and let me tell you, it was a very cool feeling each time I turned a corner and found myself face to face with a beautiful work of art. Take pictures, share experiences, and remember to use #JaxOutings to mark your experiences through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Happy exploring!