There is a refrain among anyone who has seen the new Southbank Riverwalk mosaic that now spans the sixty-foot wall beneath the Main Street Bridge: it is stunning at sunset. Its creator, local artist Kate Rouh, calls it “the perfect scenario”: the mosaicked wall’s mirror tiles reflect the oranges and golds of the sky as the brilliant cobalt blue of the Main Street Bridge above it glows with orange uplight – complementary colors intensifying each other. The colorful effect pervades the environment, and changes the mural itself. The reflected oranges in the mirrored tiles sparkle against the adjacent blue tiles in the otherwise monochromatic piece.
Mirrored River: Where Do You See Yourself? is comprised of tiles in values of just two blues – cobalt and turquoise—composing curving lines and broad planes that create the background to a central organic shape; this shape that creeps across the picture plane is the aerial view of the St. Johns, filled with mirrors and delineated, in stark contrast, by matte black stones. Rouh gives us a rare view of our river – as seen in its entirety from above – and lets the river literally reflect its environs. This includes not only natural phenomena but portions of our city’s skyline and the bodies of those walking the Riverwalk, no doubt stopping to look at the wall and seeing their faces in it.
Mirrored River is part of the City of Jacksonville and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s Art in Public Places Program (APP) that seeks to add public art to the city’s new construction projects. As the Southbank Riverwalk undergoes renovation, integrating public art into the redesign will, according to the Art in Public Places Committee (APPC), “bring…vibrancy and increased walkability to Downtown Jacksonville.”
Rouh is familiar with public art specificities and she and her projects are becoming familiar in Jacksonville. Rouh and her husband partner in their mosaic art business, Roux Art, and currently have six mosaic projects underway around the city through the Art in Public Places grant. Roux Art spent a recent year creating movable mosaic art with visitors to Downtown ArtWalk, made possible through a Spark Grant from the Cultural Council, and beautified Riverside’s Yacht Basin Park gazebo with a Community Foundation Art Ventures grant. Perhaps one of her best known pieces, though, is the one that got her started – the mosaic on the exterior wall of West Riverside Elementary School (where Rouh is the art teacher), viewable from highly trafficked Park Street. Put simply, “I think that our city needs more public art and we wanted to be a part of it,” she says.