Yellow House: An Intersection of Art, Community, and Social Justice

Photo by Ingrid Damiani

Hope McMath by Francesco Salomoni, Yellow House, Art, Jacksonville, Florida
Hope McMath by Francesco Salomoni

Hope McMath, a leader in the Jacksonville arts community, has moved on from her post as director at the Cummer, to run a new endeavor–Yellow House. Inside Yellow House, just across from the CoRK Arts District, at first glance, it looks like a gallery, albeit one with storage issues–besides art, the first room of the gallery features pallets of water, cereal boxes and other sundries, ready to go to communities in need.

When hurricane Irma hit, McMath mobilized as quickly as possible, getting much needed supplies to those living in Jacksonville, especially in the Washington Heights area, which was flooded. She had specific plans for events around the opening, but four days after they opened the doors, hurricane Irma hit. She jumped in and started getting involved just after the storm, finding communities in Jacksonville that were still going without and had been devastated by the hurricane.

Hope McMath, Princess Simpson Rashid, Yellow House, Art, Activism, Jacksonville, Florida
Hope McMath with fellow artist Princess Simpson Rashid, Photo by Ingrid Damiani

“When you’re smaller scale and closer to the ground, you can be more responsive and more nimble,” says McMath. A lot of the great larger non-profits here in Jacksonville have to get things through a board of trustees, which takes time, but McMath had the option of immediately making phone calls and mobilizing the art community to help just after Irma was gone. In Washington Heights, the water was waist deep in some places, making houses unlivable and ruining food supplies. Her plan is to be there for the community as much as possible, until some of the larger organizations can pivot to help.

Yellow House, Art, Jacksonville, Florida
Yellow House, at the corner of Phyllis St. and King St. in Riverside

“For me one of the things that I hoped would happen [with Yellow House], though I didn’t think it would happen that quickly, was to dissolve these artificial edges that we put between things like art and education, social justice and community building–there’s already an inherent connection,” says McMath.

A closer look reveals that Yellow House is really an intersection of art, community, meeting place, and social justice. It’s that last part of that intersection which really sets it apart from the typical. Social justice is intertwined with the art on the wall, giving artists that are too controversial for standard gallery spaces and publicly funded space.

Yellow House, Art, Jacksonville, Florida
“Black Lives” by Matthew Abercrombie

Art and activism seem to go together, but many art spaces shy away from the controversy because they’re afraid of losing limited funding. She provides a safe space for artists to start challenging conversations about even hot button issues such as race or politics. McMath wants Yellow House to be “an equal balance between art, social relevance, and community building. A lot of the work uses art as the tool for that, creating a space to convey people around important conversations, to connect people out in the community.”

Tony Wood, Yellow House
“The Place Doesn’t Look Like It Use To” by Tony Wood, 66” x 54” oil on canvas. Based on passages from Al Letson poetical called “Chalk,” it is a piece about bullying and relational aggression. Wood was trying to capture the mood and visual narrative/drama of the passage in his own style and says, “because I am a figurative artist, I’m always trying to find new ways to capture a specific emotion and tell a story through paint and gesture and tone and this exhibition gave me the perfect vehicle to push myself, my abilities and my ideas to tell that story.”

Since October is National Bullying Prevention Month, Yellow House’s next exhibition will be centered around that theme. The exhibition name is and someone gets lost along the way. Central to the show is a play by Al Letson, called Chalk. The work, according the Yellow House website, “illustrates the cycle of aggression; how it trickles down from the world at large, to a small community and its children. Chalk reveals the inner voices of kids who are trapped in a society where bullying is tolerated in schools and on social media.”

All the works will be inspired by this new play, featuring readings from Barbara Colaciello, former Education Director of Players by the Sea, and with concurrent happenings and artwork in the nearby CoRK Arts building.

“It’s a really nice way to link the writers of the community, the actors of the community, and the visual artists of the community, in two spaces that are a little non-traditional for doing exhibitions,” says McMath.

Yellow House is located at 577 King Street. For current hours and more information, see their website at www.yellowhouseart.org.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Yellow House, in partnership with Babs’ Lab and CoRK Arts District, presents and someone gets lost along the way – featuring artist created work inspired by the poetic text from CHALK, a play written by nationally known poet and radio host Al Letson that illustrates the cycle of aggression; how it trickles down from the world at large, to a small community and its children. Chalk reveals the inner voices of kids who are trapped in a society where bullying is tolerated in schools and on social media.

ARTISTS

Mateo Applecrumbs • Matthew Bennett • Christina Boykin • Mark Creegan • Overstreet Ducasses • William Edison • Crystal Floyd • Liz Gibson • Margete Griffin • Lori Guadagno • Marsha Hatcher • Dustin Harewood • Malcolm Jackson • Mal Jones • Karen Kurycki • Tiffany Manning • Deborah Reid • Anne Roberts • Jefree Shalev • Sharla Valeski • Roosevelt Watson, III • Tony Wood

Marketing artwork is adapted from Sharla Valeski’s “untitled” embroidery on fabric 24″x34″

YELLOW HOUSE HOURS

TUE Oct 3 | 2-8pm
WED Oct 11 | 2-8pm
THU Oct 12 | 10am-8pm
THU Oct 26 | 10am-8pm
SAT Oct 28 | 10am-2pm

About Erin Thursby