Nicole Holderbaum’s fascination with murals stems from a simple reason. “I like to paint really big,” she says. “It’s nice to have a huge canvas to go crazy on.” The artist has been committed to painting and facilitating street art in the Jacksonville area for the past four years. She snagged the attention of the Landing’s directors and event coordinators last year when she organized the Jax Kids’ Mural Festival. They later approached her about spearheading a mural project in the Landing’s indoor shopping area. “They talked to me about potentially painting the walls,” she says. She decided to turn the invitation into a project that would create opportunities for up-and-coming street artists.
Through early April, the Jacksonville Landing Mural Project, also known as The Landing Walls, accepted a flood of applications from artists in the community. Holderbaum and the rest of the Mural Project team narrowed the applications down to seven Jacksonville artists based on concept and style. Murals by Leo Hearn, Ingrid “Yuzly” Mathurin, Rachelle Terry, Brook Ramsey, Martin Torres, Halsi, and Tatiana Kitchen were unveiled during May’s Downtown Art Walk.
“Street art is the new face of modern and contemporary art,” says Holderbaum. “Today, if you want to send your message, you have to do it on a huge wall.” Through various mural projects, Holderbaum calls for the people of Jacksonville to recognize their own potential. “You have the power within you that’s in the entire universe,” says Holderbaum. “You’re capable of achieving anything you want. Our thoughts limit us.” She finds responsibility in sharing this message to those around her, artists and spectators alike. “A lot of people don’t know that your thoughts dictate so much of your life. It’s something I’m trying to figure out how to express.”
“Ego is an epidemic right now. Even artists whose role in a community and society is to be empathetic, compassionate, understanding, loving—they’ve just turned into these egotistical, narcissistic people.”
Holderbaum feels that international street art has taken a frightening turn toward the egomaniacal. “Ego is an epidemic right now,” she says. “Even artists whose role in a community and society is to be empathetic, compassionate, understanding, loving—they’ve just turned into these egotistical, narcissistic people.” Through her own art and leadership of community projects, Holderbaum strives to help others veer from the norm of self-involvement. She notes the over-saturation of street art in this day and age. Recently, corporations like Nike and Gucci have hired graffiti artists to paint advertisements in metropolitan areas. “Unfortunately, it’s becoming commercialized,” Holderbaum says. “The purpose and righteousness of street art is kind of getting lost. It’s fine to be successful, as long as you have the right mindset.”
Street art is a difficult medium to enter. Mural painting comes with a slew of physical challenges. It can be dangerous, and requires expensive equipment, such as ladders, lifts, and scaffolding. Plus, the muralist must nail down a space—preferably one with lots of traffic—to paint. Finding a benefactor is nearly essential to the mural-painting process. Through The Landing Walls and other community-oriented efforts, Holderbaum yearns to provide direction to fellow street artists. “I had guidance that aided me in my process of achieving my goals,” she says. “I think a lot of artists lack that guidance. I want to be that guidance for other artists—provide them with opportunities and guide their mindset in the right direction.” Thanks to projects like Art Republic (an internationally-recognized mural event that occurs each November), the Building Art Program, the Kids’ Mural Festival, and other community-wide mural concepts, street art has become a large part of downtown Jacksonville’s culture. Holderbaum has some level of influence on each of these mural-making projects, and feels she has the experience to steer the Landing’s mural project in the right direction. She hopes the murals will attract attention toward the Jacksonville Landing, an area of downtown’s riverfront that doesn’t receive much consideration ordinarily. “We want to motivate people to go to the Landing,” she says.
“Street art is the new face of modern and contemporary art. Today, if you want to send your message, you have to do it on a huge wall.”
The murals painted this Spring will be replaced by new murals in 2018. “Every year, a new group of artists will get a chance to paint,” says Holderbaum. Until then, the current murals will be on display at the Jacksonville Landing throughout the rest of the year. Soon, the Landing will incorporate a corresponding literary component. They’ll feature pieces of locally-created writing by seven writers in the community. For more information, like the The Landing Walls on Facebook.