BY MELISSA BEAUDRY, Museum of Science & History
Much of Jacksonville’s history revolves around the river, and for MOSH, the river acts a major teaching tool for natural science education. As the cultural current of our community, it is a major component to our identity and an aspect of our quality of life. With Cultural Fusion focusing on the Year of the River for 2015, it created the avenue for cultural institutions across disciplines to come together in the spirit of collaboration to create innovative programming highlighting the critical health of our river, as well as its tributaries and springs.
MOSH hosted exhibitions connected to the theme including the signature exhibit Springs Eternal, chronicling the story of Florida springs by juxtaposing several sets of graphic then-and-now photographs detailing the state of decline of many of our waterways, and Jenny Adler’s photo exhibition Illusions, which blended science and art through the illusion of water to raise awareness about Florida’s fragile springs and water sources. Both of these exhibits provided a meaningful space for local and regional artists to engage in the larger community dialogue around the river. These exhibits also created an environment for additional programming like the symposium Past, Present, Future: Florida’s Water in the St. Johns River Basin co-hosted with St. Johns Riverkeeper, where guests heard from several key experts on different aspects of the importance of the river.
Anchor events like Voices of the River and Fish Fusion were major components to the effectiveness of collaboration in highlighting the Year of the River theme, and there were also collaborations that grew organically out of conversations about the importance of the river. Maria Hane, executive director of MOSH and a member of the leadership team for Cultural Fusion reflects, “The synergy in it all was what we didn’t plan but what grew out of pure collaboration.” Through MOSH hosting Jenny Adler’s Illusions, the relationship lead to strengthening the Year of the River Summer Discovery Camp week with programming around Adler’s work, in conjunction with St. Johns Riverkeeper and other community scientists who spent the week teaching youth about the importance of the River.
Exploring the depth of Cultural Fusion led to strengthening existing relationships and growing new collaborations by finding creative opportunities to work together, feeding confidence to the cultural community in Jacksonville. Hane feels that “by using the lens of the St. Johns River, the lifeblood of our community, institutions were able to bring their unique creativity and resources to the table with the common goal of inspiring cultural interaction.” The energy around Cultural Fusion has been inspiring for Hane and the mission of MOSH, and MOSH is excited about the momentum into next year’s theme. “These dynamic collaborations created a richer experience, and we hope to bring more voices to the table in elevating the cultural threads of our community as we move forward.”