Jacksonville’s Remarkable Arts Pioneer

The legacy of Jacqueline Holmes is celebrated in MOCA Jacksonville exhibition

When one looks at a timeline of the arts in Jacksonville, it would seem that Jacqueline “Jacque” Bennett Holmes (1932 – 2017) was engaged at every major step. Through her long and exemplary history of initiating new ways to advocate for and include the arts in our city, Holmes’ vision and impact cannot be overstated. A pillar of our community with artistic acumen that has shaped its culture, the highlights of her career are remarkable.

As a pioneering, nationally recognized businesswomen in the arts, she opened Jacksonville’s first contemporary art gallery in 1962 – Group Gallery, with noted architect Taylor Hardwick. Soon thereafter, she and Preston Haskell together began collecting what would become one of the most important Abstract Expressionist (AbEx) art collections in the region. She built ground-breaking corporate art collections around the country, and developed the kernel of what would become the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. These are just a few points along her path, and a current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA) not only

examines Holmes’ incredible timeline, but shares her legacy through her personal collections of fine art, fashion, and furniture. Titled Breaking Boundaries: The Vision of Jacqueline Holmes, the exhibition is on display through August 2, and helps paint a broad and enlightening picture of this inspirational woman.

“It is extraordinary that one woman made such an impact on the arts in our community, and we felt that it was important to tell her story with the hope that it will inspire others to build upon her legacy,” says MOCA Director Caitlín Doherty.

When looking at Holmes’ great impact on our local cultural landscape, proceeding in linear fashion from the 1950s, the decade of her education in art history at Wellesley College and first job in market research with a New York City advertising firm, lays the groundwork for each step in her accelerated career. Once in Jacksonville, in the early ’60s, Holmes opened Group Gallery and began collecting art. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, she served on the board of the Jacksonville Art Museum, now MOCA. 

Her first experience in corporate art consulting came in 1967, when Gulf Life Insurance hired her to advise on artwork for its new headquarters – the Gulf Life Center, now known as Riverplace Tower. In 1971, Holmes founded her corporate art consulting agency, Art Sources, Inc., whose major projects would include IBM, AT&T, Merck&Co., Tupperware, SunBank, Florida National Bank, Barnett Bank, Atlanta International Airport, the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, and the Richmond

Robert Rauschenberg, Individual #59 (from 7 Characters), 1982. Mixed media on paper. 43 x 31 inches. © 2019 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Image courtesy of Cravotta Photography.

Convention Center. For the 1986 Florida National Bank project, Holmes developed an art program for their Downtown tower and installed over one hundred works of art, more than half by Florida artists. The contract for the Pennsylvania Convention Center included eighteen site specific commissions, including Judy Pfaff’s suspended sculpture, the largest indoor sculpture commission in the country. Holmes expressed unique pride in a project that came later, in 2000 – advising on art for Kids’ Walk, the glass walkway connecting Wolfson Children’s Hospital to Nemours Children’s Specialty Care.

In 1973, Holmes advised on the Action Plan for the Arts in Jacksonville, which was adopted that year under mayor Hans Tanzler, and would result in the creation of the Arts Assembly. Constituted with Helen Lane and Ann Baker, the Arts Assembly is today the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, and Holmes served on its board until 1997, and as its president from 1986-87. In her constant and continuing leadership through the ’80s and ’90s, she also served on the board of governors for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the advisory committee to Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

1992 saw a change in her business, when she sold Art Sources, Inc., and constituted Jacqueline Holmes and Associates. During this time, Holmes continued to focus on furthering the arts in Jacksonville, providing her expertise and impacting how our city is experienced and remembered as an arts community. When the city’s Art in Public Places program was established in 1997, Holmes served as an advisor to mayor John Delaney and as initial consultant to the program. “Though a surprisingly tougher fight than I expected, we passed an Art in Public Places ordinance around the time of the Better Jacksonville Plan passage,” recalls Delaney. The ordinance called for a certain percentage of any capital project be set aside for public art, and it was a booming time for city spending – a new library, arena, courthouse and baseball park were to be built, and Delaney estimates the cost, in today’s dollars, at $700 million. Thus, there was a lot of public art to be assembled. Holmes was asked to implement the new law and coordinate the selection of art. “To be honest, I was completely hands off and gave Jacque all of the rope she wanted,” says Delaney. “At the time, I raised my eyebrows at the Six Continents installations near the arena, but over time I realized how astute she was – they are attention getting. She was patient, humble, and perhaps more importantly, non-condescending. She was able to mix the extremely contemporary (see Six Continents) with more traditional elements (see the Downtown Library).”

Read MoreBy Meredith T. Matthews

Author: Arbus

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