That’s right, all the art you see here has been randomly dropped throughout Jacksonville and beyond, as west as Salt Lake City, UT and as north as Chattanooga, TN, in an effort to continue OPERATION: Bring Art to the People, a public art project designed to help connect random people to the power of art. As I get opportunities to travel, I will continue to set free more of my art into the open wild, until then, I will continue to do Art Drops through out Jacksonville, FL 🙂
- Our skyline…
I hear so many complaints about Jacksonville, and while I can be the first to admit that it definitely has it’s issues such as: not enough public art, not enough separation between church and state, and crazy random weather that ranges anywhere between monsoon season that causes excessive flooding to seasons of drought that cause way too many wild fires, but our issues don’t make us any different than any other city in the nation. Every city has it’s ups and downs, but like anything in life, we need to be able to look at the big picture, the silver lining, and embrace all that makes our city fabulous while we continue to work on the little annoying nuisances & wrinkles that still need to be addressed and ironed out.
All that being said, I would like to direct you to a few of my favorite things in Jacksonville. Some will be expected, some will be surprises while some, you will feel are coming out of left field. Either way, enjoy!
1. It’s just plain pretty here!
- View of Jax from the ATT Building
From our beaches, to our sky, to our river, to the swamps, to our urban core, the bridges, the architecture, the landscape…Jacksonville is pretty and unlike other large cities it’s way cleaner too! Now, that does not excuse anyone who finds it acceptable to litter or pollute any area of our city, this goes for large businesses dumping toxic chemicals into our river to the home owner dumping trash into the sewer. Don’t be a litter bug people! That way we can keep our city lookin’ pretty 🙂
What?! Did an artist just endorse sports? The answer is: Yup and I’ll do it again if you ask. This includes the Jags, the Sharks, the Giants, the Suns, and rumor has it we even have a professional lacrosse team which I think is awesome, I haven’t had a chance to see them in action, but hope to one day soon. I’m bummed that we lost our professional soccer & hockey teams not too long ago, but here’s to believing that we’ll get them back. I will admit, I’m not much for college sports, but I’m still happy that our city hosts the FL/GA games & the Gator Bowl. Regardless of whether your heart lies with the arts or sports, I think it’s important to support both. Playing sports teaches you how to be a member of a team and work together while being active and getting healthy, while being involved in the arts challenges your mind and feeds your soul, all which are very important to having a well rounded life. As you can tell by a lot of my art work, I enjoyed being active and having fun. I could never claim to be athletic by any means, but active yes.
3. The Food!
- A meat pie & salad from Bakery Moderne in Riverside…so yummy 🙂
Yup, there’s is more than just fast food and Applebees in these here parts! (<- Pretend I just said that in my best southern accent.) There are so many awesome locally owned restaurants, bakeries, coffeehouses, candy stores, etc ready and available to satisfy even the most distinguished palate. Here is a list of some of my faves w/ links to their websites in no particular order:
- Burrito Gallery
- Chomp Chomp
- Chamblins Uptown
- La Cena
- Bakery Moderne
- The Fox Diner
- The Brick
- Taste of Thai
- Pepes Hacienda
- Three Layers Coffeehouse
- Jenkins Barbecue
- The Casbah Cafe
- Bold Bean Coffee
- Bistro Aix
- Genes Seafood
- International Cafe
- Pulp: Smoothie Shop
- Peterbrooke Chocolatier
- Sweet Pete’s
- Jax Food Trucks
- Metro Diner
*Disclaimer: I’m sure there are many names I have left off here, so please forgive me. I will add on new names as I remember or as I get the opportunity to try new places.
4. The Festivals & Events!
- 4th of July Fireworks over downtown.
We have so many outdoor festivals and events and a ton of them are FREE! It’s true and too many people don’t know about this which is sad. Here are a few of my faves that are free:
- NAS JAX Airshow
- Springing the Blues
- JAX Jazz Fest
- Jacksonville Light Parade
- Veterans Day Parade
- Movies in the Park (& other random locations)
- Year Round Fireworks (after every Suns Game, 4th of July, New Years, etc)
And here are a couple more that have admission prices:
- World of Nations Celebration
- Monster Truck Show (oh, yes I did!)
- Jax Film Fest
- Citrus Cel Animation Festival
5. Nature is Everywhere!
- Oranges are everywhere…
It’s true. Besides the fire ants & mosquitoes, I’d say we have some of the best nature this side of the Mississippi. We have the beach, the river, various swamps and bayous. On any given day you can find manatees or dolphins in the St. Johns and/or in the Atlantic; cranes, egrets, & Canadian geese(?!) hanging out in retention ponds year round, and let’s not forget the gators and bears that occasionally show up in our backyards, that always make for an exciting encounter. And then there are the trees! Among the magnolia, cypress, and palm trees, you’ll also find majestic oaks, gorgeous weeping willows and blooming crape myrtles and, of course, there are also the fruit trees: orange, lemon, grapefruit, plum, papaya, etc., etc., etc. Even through all the urban sprawl and tacky subdivisions, we still have a good amount of nature, some that is still in it’s original condition and some that has adapted to the changes in the landscape done by developers while others are man made. Of course, most of us would prefer to see the City of Jacksonville build up instead of out so as to stop the destruction of our natural wetlands & other resource and hopefully learn & grow from our past mistakes and continue to develop a better, cleaner, healthier Jacksonville.
Here are some great links to help you enjoy nature at it’s finest:
6. Almost Last But Certainly Not Least: THE JAX ART SCENE!!!
Which includes but is not limited to: visual art, music, poetry, theater, etc. I don’t even know where to start on this one! First, let me say, as a local artist myself, I have seen the Jax art scene grow by leaps and bounds. It still has a long way to go to reach it’s full potential which includes finding ways to fund artists directly for the work they do, increasing art education in schools, having the city invest more into our public art programs, finding ways of extending our reach beyond those already connected to the art scene and reaching the “outsiders” who have no idea what kind of power and presence the arts has in everyday life, and getting more and better media coverage of artistic and cultural events. There are several artists and artistic/cultural organizations that are doing great things in our community, constantly pushing boundaries, always creating, and continuously engaging our community for the sake of art. Here are some of my favorites and let me just say, it would be impossible to list everyone, but if you get connected with even just one of these artists/organizations/magazines, you will open up the enormous world that is our local art scene, so start connecting and spreading the word!
In no particular order, I present to you:
- The Artist Series
- The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
- The Art Center Cooperative, Inc.
- Art Walk
- EU Jacksonville
- Folio Weekly
- Riverside Fine Arts Assoc.
- Riverside Arts Market
- Beaches Fine Art Series
- Overstreet Ducasse
- Reddi Arts
- Ed Dansart
- Goliath Flores
- David Montgomery
- Doug Eng
- Jim Smith
- Al Letson
- Penny Dickerson
- Margena Brunett
- Ingrid Damiani
- Thom Buttner
- Christina Foard
- Tony Rodrigues
- Mark Creegan
- Megan Cosby
- James Hance
- Thomas Hager
- Madeleine Peck
- Argie Mitra
- Shaun Thurston
- Keith Doles
- Christie Thompson Holechek
- Taul Waters
- Varick Rosete
- Karen Kurycki
- Antonio Allegretti
- Marsha Hatcher
- Jim Draper
- Dolf James
- Steve Williams
- Annelies Dykgraaf
- Shane Douberly
- Sharla Valeski
- Mary Atwood
- Elaine Bedell
- Mary St. Germain
- Nadine Terk
- Leigh Murphy
- Jennifer Chase
- Tayloe White
- Jacksonville University
- Pablo F. Rivera
- Nicole Trimmer
- Logan Zawacki
- The Cummer
- Florida Mining
- One Spark
- AIGA JAX
*I’ll be here all day if I keep listing people and groups, so if I left your name off the list, please forgive me, but feel free to leave your info in the comments for people to find you 🙂
7. Special Art Stuff That I’ve Been Doing
- OPERATION: Bring Art to the People: a public art project revolving around the idea of leaving random art in random locations for random people to find in an effort to connect new people to the thriving Jacksonville Art Scene
- The Dingo Loves JAX Series: And because I love Jacksonville and because I love my dog, I have started making art glorifying both 🙂
“The Dingo Visits Friendship Fountain” 8″x8″ mixed media on canvas
“The Dare Devil Dingo Crosses the Dames Point” 8″x8″ mixed media on canvas
“The Dingo Visits NAS JAX” 8″x8″ mixed media on canvas
8. And Finally: MISCELLANEOUS
Here are a few more random links to some of my favorite places to help keep you busy while exploring J’ville:
- Jacksonville University Glassblowing Program
- Dogwood Park
- Kamp Kritter
- 5 Points Theater
- San Marco Theater
- The Specktator
- Treaty Oak
- The Humane Society of NE FL
- Murray Hill Theatre
- The Water Taxi
- The Skyway
- Jacksonville Magazine
- Friendship Fountain
- First Coast No More Homeless Pets
- Downtown Vision Inc.
- Experience Jax
- First Coast YMCA
I hope you have enjoyed this compilation of some of my most favorite things to do and see in Jax and hopefully I have helped introduce you to some new and interesting things to love about this great city. There are so many more new things on the horizon and if I had the time (and if I was getting paid), I would certainly go into much greater detail than what I already have on this post. Your job now, is take all this new information, share it with your friends, family, and anyone else who will listen and learn to love and embrace this city so many of us call home 🙂
It was roughly 1982, and I was attending Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in Metairie, LA. Our P.E. uniforms were all green, with our school logo in yellow, not the most fashionable attire, but I don’t think school uniforms ever really are.
So with my favorite pair of green tennis shoes , my sweatband in place & my jock socks pulled up all the way, I was ready for some kickball action. I was the tallest & lankiest kid in my class and I was never really good at any sports, but one sport I was pretty good at was kickball.
There were several perks about this particular sport that seemed to work in my favor such as but not limited to:
- The ball was big & red, which definitely was a bonus for my poor vision.
- Unlike other sports, it was customary for the person serving the ball to ask you “How do you want it?” My response was always the same: “Slow and Bouncy!”
- The 2 previous perks allowed me enough time to brace myself, prepare my ridiculously long leg to swing, and with the bounce element factored in, I was also able to time my large foot exactly where it needed to be: right under the ball as it was coming down from a bounce.
With all the above in place, I swung with all my might, sending the giant red ball farther than most anyone in my age group, but never far enough for a home run. Though I had pretty decent kicking skills, my awkward stature made me a super slow runner. Either way, at the very least, I was able to impress the masses with my kicking ability, even if it only was just for a moment 🙂
Would you like to own your very own piece of fine art that celebrates the innocence & joy of childhood? Check out my For Sale page for available works.
Anyone who knows me, knows that when I tell a story, I like to start from the beginning. So to tell you about my latest trip to Chattanooga, you guessed it, I have to start from the beginning. So here it goes:
In 2003, after a messy breakup from a an almost 3 year relationship, I found myself being a single dog/cat “parent”, without a place to live or even a bed to sleep on. My fairly new BFF came to my rescue and offered me a place to stay in her one bedroom apartment with her Japanese Akita dog lovingly named, Jade.
The tight living quarters posed many challenges. For one, my “bedroom” was actually the dining room and second, our dogs were having a super hard time getting along because of their conflicting personalities. Jade, due to her breed, is naturally stubborn, protective, and bossy while Gambit, for who knows what reason, knows he’s not the alpha dog, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to prove otherwise any chance he gets. So needless to say, there were many scuffles between my 50lb dog and my BFF’s 100+lb dog, but eventually, they learned to get along and became BFFs themselves.
Fast-forward several years and many countless memories and life changes later, and my BFF & Jade, have since moved from sunny Jacksonville, FL to Chattanooga, TN and last week I got the phone call that I knew would one day be coming in one way or another: it’s time to let her go. So with much sadness, but with much happiness for a chance to see her one more time, I started to plan my trip to Tennessee. My mind kept going back to just how blessed Jade was to have found my amazing BFF and just how blessed my BFF was to find such a wonderful dog like Jade.
Dogs are truly amazing creations. It’s not hard to imagine them as angels in disguise, whose sole purpose it is on this earth to give us companionship, unconditional love, protection, comfort and so much more. Most of my art work is based on both my first dog, Snoopy (he’s the blue & white dog in my Childhood series) and my current dog, Gambit. If you can’t tell, I have a very warm place in my heart for these wonderful creatures.
So as I prepared for my trip, I realized this was a good opportunity take OPERATION: Bring Art to the People with me on the road for a few Sneaky Love Art Drops, and not only would it be a good distraction from the reality of the visit but, a chance to share the love of art with the focus of the work being on: Doggie Love.
I selected a couple of my favorite works, loaded them & the dog into the car & hit the road. My first drop was at a rest stop somewhere along I-75 North about 2 hours south of Atlanta. As I got closer and closer to Chattanooga, the reality started sinking in again and I couldn’t wait to spend some quality time with my BFF & Jade, and as an added bonus her other BFF & her dog, Brinkley, also drove up and joined in on the get together.
That night, we all talked, we laughed, we cried, we ate, we took pictures, and we loved on the dogs, especially Jade. There were moments when we acted normal, almost as if we had forgotten exactly why we were all there, but then reality would strike us again & the mood would quickly change, but then one of the dogs would do something ridiculous and we’d be right back to laughing uncontrollably. It really was a bittersweet experience.
The next morning we took all the “kids” to the dog park and watched them frolic and play without a care in the world. It was sad though to see how differently the dogs played now compared to 10 years ago. There was less running, less fighting, but there was still so much love & happiness oozing from each of them that we couldn’t help but smile.
Then it was time to say our good-byes to Jade…
We were all numb afterwards, not really knowing what to say, how to act, it didn’t seem real. My BFF didn’t want to go home, she wanted to be distracted, so I suggested an Art Drop and she was all for it, but I have a feeling, if I had told her that I wanted to balance & rotate my own tires, she probably would of agreed to tag along just so she wouldn’t have to stay home. It was amazing how quickly we got distracted looking for the perfect spot to drop the piece, the excitement of trying to go unnoticed, and the exhilaration as we ran away from the scene of the “crime.” For a few minutes, we allowed ourselves to enjoy the present moment before we reconnected with reality.
The next day, I woke up early and started my journey back home with Gambit. Two hours into my drive, I got off at one of the first exits for ATL for the the final Sneaky Love Art Drop of my journey, where a super cool looking diner called the OK Cafe caught my eye, so I strategically dropped the last painting into some bushes for a random person to find. From that same exit, I refueled the car with gas, the dog with some water & myself with some coffee and hit the road again. As I drove down I-75 South, I reflected on my trip with an appreciation for the blessing that my BFF is on my life, for the blessings that our dogs are in our lives, for the moments and memories, both good & bad, that are made a little easier just by releasing the love in our hearts towards each other, whether it’s your best friend or a complete stranger. Our lives are short on this earth, we really need to live everyday with purpose, figure out what we were put here to do, and with a loving heart push through and get it done, help people along the way, never stop searching for wisdom & understanding and embrace every precious moment as the blessings come pouring in…