Take It from the Mathews Bridge

Finally, Jacksonville to replace Andrew Jackson statue with a lot of Nu-Metal. 

By: Glenn Michael Van Dyke

As Floridians, we’re all used to the long, straight, and unchanging drive from Jacksonville to Miami, from hot to hotter, an apt metaphor for Florida’s place among our current political climate. The terrain is all too familiar. It would be “very Florida” to simply crack a beer and watch the scene unfold. But that doesn’t really seem to be working in our favor. 

For anyone who believes in progress, it’s easy to feel as though we’re held hostage on this here penisula. A recent poll (see: the 2020 presidential election) shows that arguably half the state’s population is being held here against their will, a stunning and heartbreaking revelation that we can go ahead and blame on Joe Biden. Because why not? I think it’s safe to say that nobody wants to be stuck in this civil war reenactment forever, and that change might be coming sooner rather than later. 

While we were all screaming “Gay!” into Ron DeSantis’ voicemail, a little piece of good news slipped through unnoticed. The controversial Andrew Jackson statue, the centerpiece to the Laura Street roundabout in front of Riverfront Plaza (aka The Lawnding, aka Lenny’s Lawn), long assaulting passersby and holiday dinner tables alike, will finally be coming down. And who might replace the country’s seventh president, city’s namesake and Trail-of-Tears architect? True Jacksonville native and rap-rock pioneer, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. In proposed renderings of the new statue, Durst is depicted in his iconic garb of baseball cap and sleeveless undershirt, microphone in one hand as the other points resolutely toward the Mathews Bridge.

“We’ve been advocating for this project for a long time,” says Preben Olsen, owner and operator of Aardwolf Brewery, a local mainstay for craft beer. A self-proclaimed “Do-er of Things,” Olsen has been pushing for a vision of melting away a controversial past and erecting signifiers of unified celebration instead. “[Lenny] Curry approved the project a couple years ago as part of a package to update Downtown,” but after the sale of JEA fell through, the whole project was put on hold. 

“Even the new football stadium was postponed,” he adds. We couldn’t reach the Mayor’s office for comment.

Thankfully, Curry isn’t the only one with a vision for downtown. Urban core advocacy project, Downtown Vision Inc., the purveyors of Jax River Jams, have recently hired a new director of placemaking to usher in an era of growth from within. Kady Yellow, one of Jacksonville’s newest residents, was brought in from Flint, Michigan, where she helped transform controversial public spaces into meaningful meeting grounds for all members of the community. 

“I’m known for my resident-driven process and welcome all people and all ideas for how to unlock the potential of our public spaces,” says Yellow of her new role. Yellow understands that for a city to flourish, resources need to be provided to the people in the city who are already doing the work that can transform something ugly into a place of common joy.

Originally, Yellow sought to intervene in Shad Khan’s newest plan to tear down the Mathews Bridge. Khan recently upgraded his 311-foot super-yacht Kismet 2, with the 413-foot Kismet 3. The newest addition to Khan’s fleet won’t clear the 152-foot gap between the St. Johns River and the iconic bridge. So when Yellow realized she couldn’t stop the multi-billionaire, she decided to repurpose the refuse from the Mathews Bridge demolition for public art. “Once I saw how poetic this could be for Jacksonville’s cultural history, I couldn’t look away.” 

The Mathews bridge, originally constructed in 1953, is referenced in the opening salvo of Limp Bizkit’s 2000 smash, “My Generation” which appeared on Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. The bridge will soon be melted into a statue of Fred Durst pointing to where it used to span, and replaced finally by a new People Mover that will extend all the way to Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. “I just hope they add a stop at the stadium,” says Olsen of the ambitious project. 

“Fred Durst captures the true culture of Duval. A selfless man who did it all for the nookie,” says Christina Kittle, a local teacher, poet, and activist with Jax Takes Action. “This is the type of history our kids won’t learn in school. Society called it a nu-metal phase, but we call it a nu future. 

The demolition process begins on the 20th of this month, starting with the removal of the Andrew Jackson statue. The statue’s remains will be melted down as part of an overarching project to replace confederate monuments with castes of better claims to fame. “We’re going to melt Andrew Jackson into a Lynyrd Skynyrd monument,” says Olsen, “We can’t change the past, but we may as well celebrate people who have actually been here.” 

We spoke with Cory Driscoll, a local musician and member of the Art in Public Places Committee, about their role in ushering in a new era of public art. “When I joined the Art in Public Places Committee six years ago, my vision was to see the Andrew Jackson statue come down and [be] replaced with something that represents all of us,” he says. “While I might not in my lifetime see the city renamed to Limptown, the least I could do was erect a statue to the seminal bands of our city.” Both Limp Bizkit and Lynyrd Skynyrd are multi-platinum recording artists, selling over ten million records worldwide, and there is widespread evidence that they both resided in Jacksonville. It’s still undetermined where the Lynyrd Skynyrd statue will be erected, but you can weigh in at an upcoming fundraiser for the project on June 9th at Riverfront Plaza. Dubbed “Doin’ it for the Nookie,” the event will be headlined by Limp Bizkit who is rumored to be in favor of the project and has offered the suggestion, “You can stick it in your yeah.”  

The new Fred Durst monument is certainly a win for Jacksonville, something we’re not used to. But don’t worry, “Touchdown,” the 15-year-old bronze jaguar statue guarding the west bank of the stadium, is not on the chopping block. “This isn’t a mission to rewrite history,” says Olsen. A statement that may make some people skeptical considering the name of the bronze jaguar. But consider this, “Touchdown” may be named as a hopeful luck charm and not a delusional revision to the history of a team whose losses add up to 260 since their inception.  In any case, we can’t change the past, but we can move forward in the spirit of another quote from same Limp Bizkit song, “Hey kid, take my advice- you don’t want to step in a big pile of sh*t.” 

 

   

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april, 2022

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