IDEAS ARE LIMITED BY STATE OF MIND. BLANK WALLS, BLANK MIND.
False impressions and misconstrued narratives suggest only the “creative” and “qualified” understand art. Correction: art is an inherent and human truth. Devoid of it, life’s natural progression to evolve is suppressed. Fundamentally, art communicates an intrinsic message in and of itself: I see you. Do you see me? “When art is free of notions of beauty and ugliness, it can be used to express this complete experience of mind,” Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, a Tibetan spiritual leader, conveys to public audiences. If all predisposed objections to personal style and preferences are absent, it is then possible to see under the guise of art and architecture where a civilization paradox is waiting to be uncovered. Art is not about a status of “good” or “bad.” Creativity and expression are embodied in being.
Every line and mark is authentic and one-of-a-kind. Predating early migration, etchings into limestone rock were driven by an instinctual human response to make the first impressions on the world. People blew pigment over their hands, leaving silhouetted prints on cave walls some 35,000 – 40,000 years later. “Modern Man” pioneered toolmaking by sharpening bones and grinding up red oxide, ocher and charcoal. From stencils to imagined beasts in the natural world, skilled artists advanced the illusion of depth with detailed line renderings of form in space wrapped around cave contours and jagged surfaces. Mental concentration and observation advanced the human consciousness and progressed to become an impetus of universal communication.
Encountering public art and architecture built into the landscape, a viewer has a choice to decide … do I engage, or not? There is a broader perspective to consider. Try this technique: Using the philosophy of “silence and chance operations” from 4’33”, a “musical” score by American experimental composer John Cage, be still for at least four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Move beyond judgment and notions of like or dislike. From an objective perspective, use all physical sensations to
experience a moment with creativity. Cage reflected on the process of making 4’33” by saying, “Originally, we had in mind what you might call an imaginary beauty, a process of basic emptiness with just a few things arising in it … And then a kind of avalanche came about which corresponded not at all with that beauty which had seemed to appear to us.”
On May 3, 1901, the third largest urban fire in US history destroyed one-hundred and forty-six city blocks of Downtown in only eight hours. News of the devastation spread rapidly, bringing industrious architects and pioneers with advancements in building construction to the new testing grounds. Leaders fueled with urgency, courageously made one of the most significant decisions in the city’s history: Rather than recreate the past, the tragedy would catalyze a complete rebuild and physical transformation. After twelve arduous years, from sheer determination and shared enthusiasm, the city became a modern-day subculture of the American Dream. “Architects came and brought their best game,” says Wayne Wood, a noted Jacksonville historian. “Jacksonville was truly one of the most modern cities in the US for a brief time.”
Downtown Jacksonville, covering merely 1.9 square miles, sits upon the threshold of its twelfth or maybe thirteenth major prospective iteration since 1901. A transformational ascent lies in wait. Many wonder why the “city of potential” has been stifled for the last fifty years. To change the course, there are infinite creative opportunities to tackle the conundrums head on. However, some long-time
residents and business owners still reserve doubt. After reflecting back to a 1970s article in The Florida Times-Union touting Downtown as ‘coming back,’ an established local resident sternly says, “Get over it. It’s never going to happen!”
If built upon and materialized authentically with purpose, cities are guaranteed an infinite number of possibilities for evolution, unless prevented by the unexpected and expected roadblocks. When art and architectural innovations are visible in the landscape, or there is a lack thereof, it impacts who stays and who leaves. Many students and emerging professionals, in particular, desire to live in cities steeped in culture. On the flip side, it is a draw. Pioneers, creatives, and active members of society know the methods to realize unmet potential. From blood, sweat, and tears, change-makers continue to produce art and validate its relevance; understanding that every society is responsible for providing accessible opportunities for all ages to engage with creativity in their communities.
Imagine the possibilities of transforming abandoned buildings and vacant lots into places of inspiration. For example, architectural art transforms the visual landscape. As public artists paint imagination into the build environment, they are transforming colorless concrete canvases into symbols of vibrancy. Uplifting form with function, surface murals and outdoor sculptures are camouflaged beacons of light. Softening the edges of a hard world, public artists gift societies with a direct channel back to humanity.