A recent installation in Downtown Jacksonville has created quite a bit of buzz. Jax Outings is an installation of figures taken from works in the Cummer Museum’s Collection, blown-up and adhered to buildings in the core of Downtown. The installation presents classical works of art in a wholly contemporary way, and was led by local CoRK artists, including art instigator Dolf James, photographer Doug Eng, and street artist and installation expert Corey Kolb.
The idea of art in public places has been the subject of much interest in Jacksonville in recent months. From electrical boxes to street art on unused buildings to funding for sanctioned installations, there are people on all sides of the issue. But how do cities around the world view public art? Many cities, both near and far, have chosen to embrace artwork as a part of their aesthetic and cultural identity. From Tel Aviv, which prides itself on public art as both memorial and decoration, to Philadelphia with the largest public art program in the U.S., boasting more than three-thousand works of art around the city, to Rome with its history of building art into the environment over the centuries – art is valued by cities and the communities within them. It has the power to breathe life into neighborhoods that are struggling, to deter vandalism, and to bring people together.
According to the Americans for the Arts green paper Why Public Art Matters, “Public art is a reflection of its place and time.…Public art activates the imagination and encourages people to pay attention and perceive more deeply the environment they occupy. [It] stimulates learning and thought about art and society, about our interconnected lives, and about the social sphere as a whole. Public art is uniquely accessible and enables people to experience art in the course of daily life, outside of museums or other cultural institutions.”
The Jax Outings project in Downtown Jacksonville is just a small part of a larger international project. The Outings Project was founded by artist Julien de Casabianca and is driven forward by community members, artists and enthusiasts. It focuses on putting classical works of art from museum collections on weather-worn corners, alley walls, and abandoned buildings. The Cummer Museum installation takes figures out of their backgrounds and off the sterile gallery walls, putting them at street level for people to interact with on a personal level. The goal of Jax Outings is to help beautify the Downtown area, and make artwork from the Cummer Collection more accessible to the people of the city, inspiring interaction and conversation.
The Outings Project began in Europe, with some of the largest efforts in places like Barcelona, Lisbon, and Paris. In this country, the cities participating in the Outings Project have been clustered in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Jacksonville is now one of only two cities in the Southeast to have joined the project, and the pieces that have been installed are on a scale that are unmatched by any of the other cities across the world. The hope for this project is that people who may not normally engage with works of art are able to experience it in unexpected and personal ways.
“This project is about giving people the opportunity to build relationships with people from the past,” says Cummer Museum Director Hope McMath. “It is about beautifying the spaces where people walk, work, and play. We intentionally married some of our most beautiful images with Downtown spaces that are often overlooked.”
“It is so refreshing to see a museum step up to the table of responsibility to help everyone approach,” comments local artist and business owner Steve Williams. “Everyone can now see in a new context how important these images are to view, enjoy and learn from. And in a street setting, it makes the experience fun and really relatable.”
An interesting thing about pulling these portraits or these images of people out of their full painting is that they become something new and different. As you walk by these images on the street you are compelled to engage with the figures by taking pictures, sharing ideas, or simply through reflection.
To share your images or to see how others are interacting with this installation, follow the Cummer Museum on Facebook and Instagram, and use #JaxOutings to mark your experiences.
Written by Amber Sesnick • Photos by Doug Eng