It always struck me oddly when the Jacksonville Landing bubbled up as a suggestion of where to take out-of-town company. The view is picturesque, and it’s one of the most prized pieces of commercial real estate in the area, but it has never really had a cohesive cultural offering. There have always been restaurants, nightclubs, and live entertainment, but not really anything that struck me as a unique, wholly Jacksonville experience. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with a pitcher and wings at Hooters, it certainly isn’t essential on the things you have to see in Jacksonville tour. However, the tide is changing, and like most cultural currents, it’s being generated through the powerful culmination of business and the arts.
There are three new tenants, all nonprofits, at the Jacksonville Landing: CoLabJax, Jacksonville Community of Entrepreneurs (JaxCoE), and The Art Center Cooperative (TAC). CoLabJax is calling their 5,000 square foot space Maker Space, and it’s a self-described workshop with a banner that states, “Where Ideas Take Flight.” Inventors, designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs alike will be welcome to hone their vision, test and prototype products, and validate designs before releasing for profitable consumption. JaxCoE is opening what they are calling the Bunker. The space will provide an incubation program for veterans. TAC is an organization of professional and emerging artists.
TAC was founded in 2005 and promotes the art of its members, holds jury exhibits for all artists, and provides workshops for adults and children. They have always called downtown Jacksonville home and currently have 26 local artists as members. We spoke with Annelies Dykgraaf of TAC about the expansion into the Jacksonville Landing. “We had three galleries in existence a year ago (our original gallery on Adams Street and one in the Bank of America building) and wanted to expand our current location at Hogan to include a more visible upscale show space. We viewed several locations at the Landing and Janice Lowe was willing to work with us,” she said.
Other cities have had success with similar transformations, as Dykgraaf pointed out. “The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia, attracts approximately 500,000 visitors annually with its 80+ artist studios, galleries and workshops. We hope to be a magnet like that for the City of Jacksonville and for the Landing.” This is a big win for the city that has been working so hard to create cultural relevance and showcase all that Jacksonville has to offer.
Like anything else, there is the capricious nature of business and ever-changing consumer proclivities that can bring the question of sustainability. Dykgraaf confirmed that TAC had a long-term vision for their new presence at the Jacksonville Landing. “Our board just went through its strategic planning session for 2016. We will continue to increase our presence with a great selection of workshops we have planned both for adults and children.” Some of the upcoming TAC events include From Music to Art, September 12 for kids; Intro to Linocut Block Printmaking October 10 and 24; and Fairies and Monsters for kids, October 17.
This encouraging progress carries quite a bit of promise. Hopefully, dedication by the Jacksonville Landing and the new tenants, as well as meaningful patronage and participation, will nourish this new growth and development.