Connecting three community institutions – one artistic, one cultural, and one financial – across the river and through our streets with a bit of clay and a lot of imagination: that’s the concept behind Fish Fusion, an initiative taken up by The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and their partners, Community First Credit Union and the Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville. Crafted during Cultural Fusion’s Year of the River, these imaginative pieces will link the two museum campuses to each other and to the broader community with site-specific installations coming soon.
Children from the community have been invited to create the small clay fish at events like summer camps, Art in the Park, Garden Month, and the Very Special Arts Festival. These fish will be displayed as swimming schools at the Cummer Museum and MOSH campuses upon completion, figuratively connecting them across the St. Johns.
For their creation, the young artists are being encouraged to let their minds run (or swim) wild. “We’re letting each individual truly be their own artist and express themselves when it comes to creating the pieces,” says Emily Moody, Program Manager at the Cummer. “There’s so many different fish in the sea, and that is reflected in the individual point-of-views we see with each fish. It’s by no means a cookie-cutter project.”
The goal of Fish Fusion is to engage the community in a massive collaborative art project reflecting the cultural impact of the St. Johns River. “I love how this project connects members of the community with the two museums, Cummer Museum and MOSH,” says the Cummer’s Executive Director, Hope McMath. “We have more in common than many people think as we provide educational opportunities for people of all ages in history, art, and the environment.”
Community First Credit Union, based in downtown Jacksonville, is a sponsor of the clay fish project. The fish will also be displayed at a credit union branch as part of the exhibit. CEO John Hirabayashi, a longtime supporter of arts and early learning, also serves as a board member for the Cummer Art & Gardens.
“Community First loves projects like clay fish,” says Hirabayashi. “This hands-on art project connects art education and learning with the community. We are especially proud of how the project helps our youth better interact with the Cummer and expand their creativity.”
Year of the River is an initiative bringing together more than 50 institutions to raise awareness of the St. Johns River as the “cultural current” of our city and an important driver for economic development, recreation, tourism and quality of life throughout Northeast Florida. Both MOSH and the Cummer will also participate in “Voices of the River” this July – a one-day-only collaborative event with WJCT, Theatre Jacksonville, and the Ritz Theatre and Museum to bring stories of African-American history along the St. Johns to life with a combination walking, bussing, and boating tour.
Through Cultural Fusion, events like “Voices of the River” and Fish Fusion continue to weave threads of connection through our cultural community. These threads empower the sector, and make the participating institutions and organizations even more accessible and fun for the community at large.
“The installations of clay fish on both of our museum campuses is symbolic of our connection via the St. Johns River, a connection we hope to make stronger,” says McMath. “It is a joy to see our two organizations join hands in doing something that is fun, meaningful, and highly representative of the collaborative nature of our cultural community.”