Internationally recognized sculptor art. The incentive is provided for the community to gather Jenny Hager, associate professor of sculpture at the University of North Florida, has taken the curatorial lead in a one-year-in-the-making outdoor sculpture exhibition in Downtown Jacksonville sponsored by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. The central location of the exhibition is in Main Street Park (325 Main Street, between Duval and Adams streets behind the Jacksonville Public Library – Main Branch) which parallels a transportation artery where pedestrians walk to work and eateries and where more than thirty thousand cars go by each Monday through Friday. Thirteen temporary sculptures will be installed in the park in September. Three additional sculptures made possible through donation will be erected in spots within the walkable Downtown core known as the Spark District. The Grand Opening of this extraordinary public art project will kick off with a Tour of Sculpture beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 12.

The concept of Sculpture Walk Jax is to contribute to the vitality of Downtown by visually drawing pedestrians from current centers of activity towards Main Street Park and provide the curious with interesting temporary visual pieces to discover and contemplate. The emphasis on “walk” is intentional, to encourage and enhance the experience of walking in the Downtown area. The privately funded Spark Grant program adds to the Cultural Council’s Art in Public Places continuing placement of permanent visually attractive destinations in the walkable core. Executive Director of the Cultural Council Tony Allegretti promotes Sculpture Walk as “an excellent example of creating a sense of place and a gathering spot using public art. The incentive is provided for the community to gather and celebrate our excellent quality of life through the physical environment the beauty of the sculptures creates. I’m so thankful for Jenny and her sculptors, our Spark District team and our donor community for collaborating on such an ambitious, impactful project.”

This inaugural exhibition is made possible in part by the Cultural Council’s Spark District Grant awarded to Hager.

“Through the Spark Grant Program the Cultural Council has, for the first time, been able to award funding to individual artists. At the same time, these Spark Grant projects are contributing to the positive and growing momentum for Downtown Jacksonville,” says Amy Palmer, the Cultural Council’s director of grants administration.

Hager has taught sculpture for more than eight years at UNF. Her interests are specifically in the processes and materials used in sculpture, including steel, cast iron, post-it notes, video, wood, digital photography, and found objects, all used in her work. She finds inspiration in dreams, objects from childhood, gadgets, sea life, and other curiosities.

“I am committed to working collaboratively and in the spirit of community both in my personal work and as a teacher of the discipline of sculpture,” says Hager, who recently returned from Latvia where she performed “Flight of the Phoenix” at the 7th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron this summer. This event, known as the Volcano Furnace Iron Pour, can be seen on Alfred University’s (NY) site, 07/volcano-erupts.html.

Jenny Hager, Dance of the Jellyfish, Steel.

The idea for the Latvian conference project was ignited when Hager attended a working session at Art Basel last year. She met and subsequently collaborated with international artists Coral Lambert, Susanne Roewer, Cynthia Handel, and Danielle Jensen for a multi-disciplined Latvian sculpture and performance art project. Lambert, who is internationally known for large and very dynamic cast iron outdoor pieces, and is associate professor and chair of sculpture at Alfred University, heads up the National Casting Center Foundry. It was this experience that led Hager to submit a Spark District Grant for consideration in 2013.

Developing Sculpture Walk Jax has been no easy task for Hager, but it has been a labor of love.

Her completed metal jellyfish sculpture will be moved from the roundabout circle on a main road at UNF to the site and installed for the event. She notes her out-of-pocket expenses exceed more than $2,500 for materials, in addition to time for designandexecution,aswellas logistics, installation, equipment, and studio/storage space. Hager supports the idea of sharing information with the public on costs borne by sculptors for their artwork so people begin to understand how the value of a piece of sculpture is determined. Her Dance of the Jellyfish sculpture is listed for $15,000. If purchased during this event, the cost will be shared, with 70% going to the artist and 30% going back into Sculpture Walk Jax to sustain the project as an annual event. This is the business of art.

“The Sculpture Walk Jax streetscape exhibition showcases how the energy of sculpture can transform the way people look at this Main Street Park site, our city and our community– it gives us energy from all points,” Hager says.

Brooklyn artist Marsha Pels juried the exhibition. Hager met Pels at Miami Basel, where a friendship was forged. Pels is an internationally renowned artist who includes the Prix de Rome among her many awards. Included in the opening of Sculpture Walk Jax is a lecture by Pels, a visiting artist at MOCA, on September 13 at 2:00 p.m. (free and open to the public).

“I met Jenny recently at a conference–I respect her work, and she respects mine,” says Pels. “Invited to jury the show, I tried to make it an exciting show as much as possible.”

Six local artists have created large-scale work for this Spark project. Jacksonville artists include Jenny Hager, Sherry Hill, Aisling Millar, Melissa Russell, Lance Vickery, and Brett Waller. Regional artists include Robert Coon (Vero Beach), Jason Lake (Orlando), and Joni Younkins-Herzog (Sarasota), along with Hanna Jubran (Grimesville, NC), Andrew Smith and Durant Thompson (both from Oxford, MS), and Susanne Roewer (Germany).

In addition, the installation of a sculptural bench by Jenny Hager and two sculptural bike racks by David Main and Lance Vickery, reflects Jacksonville’s new focus on healthy living and bike riding as a primary means of transportation for some residents.

These outdoor installations are designed to withstand a year of adverse weather conditions and the high traffic environment. All sculptures will be for sale during the exhibition year, but must remain onsite for the duration of the exhibit. The City of Jacksonville Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department has been working with Hager and her sponsors to ensure the safety and resistance to public interaction of the temporary one-year exhibition.

In addition to the privately funded Spark District Grant, this exciting new sculpture installation project is generously co-sponsored by A&K Machine and Fabrication, Atlantic Powder Coating, Auld & White Constructors, Jaxparks, Connection Festival, Pedroni Cast Stone and Concrete, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, Harbinger, Jax Chamber of Commerce, Regions Bank, UNF Department of Art and Design, community support, and local art collector and philanthropist Preston H. Haskell.

“Jenny did a great job lining up and getting proposals to the juror to bring the [thirteen] outdoor, 3-D large-scale sculptures to Main Street,” says Haskell. “I hope people will come and enjoy these works of art over the coming year, and that it will lead to the purchase of the sculptures for permanent display.”

Surrounding the Sculpture Walk Jax opening is an entire weekend of events as it coincides with the Connection Festival (, a ticketed main stage event featuring local, regional, and international live music, yoga sessions, dance, street performances, and art exhibitions, along with technology and business forums

As project lead, Hager wants to make an impact – a huge impact. If you have an interest in helping sustain this project, funding is being accepted by the Cultural Council on its website, If you wish to donate directly to Sculpture Walk Jax, put “/Hager” on the donation form in order to help sustain the future of the walk; otherwise, it will be a general donation to the grant project. Collaborative support is welcome.

Article written by Mason Martin


Author: Arbus

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