How Local Artists Claimed Space


At first glance, 600 King Street appears to be a commercially-zoned eyesore for gated grunge and junk. But it’s not. artist-claimed-space-king-st-jewelryThe royalty-titled address is home to King Street Studios – a 1969 skating rink converted into a 2,400- square-foot space situated beneath the maniacal buzz of I-10 traffic, with scattered industrial businesses as neighbors. Venture inside and you’ll see walls sprawling with innovation; yet another example of how local artists find space to create art.

Leading the eclectic pack of artists is the partnership of Shannon Reeves and Robert Noelke. Together with their blonde offspring, Stella “Blue” Morgan-Noelke, they uniquely represent a growing number of families striving to survive in an economy that challenges artistic passion.

A Jacksonville native, Reeves sold her share of Beads Here Now in 2013 following more than a decade of success in the Five Points business district. The initial investment advanced her as a jeweler designing exquisite sterling silver and copper pendants, but it was time to move on. Reeves is now a full-time artist.

Within months she found King Street Studios and relocated as proprietor of Shannon Noelke Metal Arts ( specializing in silversmithing, intricate wire weaving, and etching techniques all perfected through informal classes, including some offered by the Jacksonville Gem and Mineral Society. An integral part of her prior business sellout was the acquisition of a select inventory of precious stones.

“One of my favorite stones is labradorite. It’s a beautiful, iridescent stone with shades of blue, green, gold, and sometimes purple,” says Reeves. “It’s rare, but found near the Labrador Peninsula of Canada and also in Madagascar.”

Reeves’s detailedartist-claimed-space-king-st-robert craftsmanship retails for $90 to $400 with an average price-point of $125. While art is a hustle, there is a demand for high-end jewelry. “I promote my art via social media and have sold pieces for $250 and more online and to collectors as far away as New Jersey,” shares Reeves, who augments her income by bartending at Monty’s in Avondale.

A woman can’t live off precious stones alone, so in 2012 Reeves married her longtime love and bearded king: Robert Noelke.

An accomplished sculptor, Noelke earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Florida and is a master blacksmith, an age-old profession and honored subject of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Village Blacksmith.” One of only a few Jacksonville “smithies,” entrepreneur Noelke runs The Itty Bitty Smithy (

“For some reason people confuse what I do with branding cows or making horseshoes,” jokes Noelke. “I do neither.” The dictionary defines a blacksmith as “a metalsmith who creates useful or decorative objects from wrought iron or steel by use of intricate tools and fire.”

Noelke teaches military veterans the trade and believes all things on earth are potentially art. A mammoth tree stump awaits its fate as a sculpture on the King Street Studio asphalt. Noelke has already titled the cranium-themed project Pick My Brain. Recycled oxygen tanks serve as the centerpiece for a functional music sculpture titled For Brian. Integrating wind and percussive elements, the structure pays tribute to the late Brian Hicks, a local musician who died of cancer in 2010. It is one of many community monuments bearing Noelke’s mark.

Reeves and Noelke are no strangers to societal awkwardness, and disregard public perception and bohemian labels. “Social awkwardness is nothing new to us,” says Reeves, who defines her own rules of artistic engagement:

“Art is any form of self-expression derived from deep within one’s soul, whether it be painting, sculpting, culinary, singing, poetry, music or movement,” offers Reeves, who is a formidable community arts leader amassing folks for a Rhythm and Flow drum circle held the third Saturday of each month.

“We feel it’s important to make the Jacksonville arts scene more inclusive and to promote up and comers as well as well-known artists,” Reeves explains. “I contacted Steve Alvarado to gather drummers, and also renowned hoop instructor Breken Rivera to facilitate a Karpeles Manuscript Museum workshop called A Midsummer Eve Spirit Gathering—The Coming Together of Art and Sound.”

Visitors to the Jacksonville Arboretum can cast their eyes on a Noelke Squared [N2] collaborative project, No Rest for Big Dreamers, a ten-foot dream catcher placed next to a rustic bed in the woods. “We asked the community to write on pieces of fabric about something that keeps them up at night, something they want to release or see become manifest,” explains Noelke. “They then hung it from the dream catcher or intention wheel.”

Reeves and Noelke eagerly attached their own dreams: artist-claimed-space-king-st-familyReeves yearns for financial stability to maintain King Street Studio and take her jewelry on the road, while Noelke, who is also a skilled carpenter, seeks to build a second home in the Carolina mountains. Regardless of what the future holds, the hard rock fans who named their four-year-old Stella Blue after the Grateful Dead’s classic song are simply grateful for art, life, and studio space at 600 King Street. (

Article written by Penny Dickerson

Author: Arbus

Share This Post On
Arbus Weekly Buzz

Subscribe for the Weekly Buzz from Arbus Magazine

Join our email list! It's your spot for cultural to-do's around Northeast Florida.

You have Successfully Subscribed!