Moving forward while the world stands still
In life there are certain times of mastery, when elements, people, and events conspire together to create magical intersectionality. It happened, ironically, during the COVID-19 quarantine, when people were more physically apart than together, more disconnected than connected, and with more time on their idle hands and seemingly nothing to do with it.
So they came to us, these twentysomethings, seeking to connect the world with their idea and their plan. The virus had shot a crater-sized hole in all of their summer plans. School was a Zoom link. Work was paused. Summer travel abroad was abruptly dismissed. So what to do? What to do with the time? What to do with the talent?
They came to us with their plan to create a mural on our 140-foot fence in the middle of our neighborhood. They wanted to become professional artists, they wanted to continue to grind forward while the world stood still.
We immediately said yes. It was time for six young artists — Corey Kreisel, Emma Flaire, Hanna Hadzic, Maaseal Outley, Ramses Allen, and Jamie Shoemaker — to go to work, pandemic be damned!
The concept for the mural was based on our podcast, Swan Dive, where we talk about life’s pivots and tell the stories of leaps into people’s visions and talents. They wanted “Swan Dive,” the mural, to tell the story of their own leaps into public art while also paying homage to the 100-year anniversary of Avondale.
For the next 30 days the area outside our fence turned into a joyous festival. The artists would work as the neighborhood, friends, and family cheered them on. We received support from the Cummer Museum, Riverside Avondale Preservation organization, and Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, all of whom wrote lovely social posts as the project gained steam and awareness.
The evenings turned into more festivals as friends joined to watch and encourage the artists. Lights dotted the wood canvas deep into the night and early into the morning. We met and interacted with so many of our neighbors; the most important thing in creating community is engaging with your neighbors. The mural was a vehicle for interaction, an excuse to engage, and a talking point to break the ice. Paint on a fence, imagination, and art—what a concept.
One morning a neighbor was running by on her usual route. It had been raining so it was wet and humid. I recognized the woman because she ran past our home every day pushing a stroller with her two young children. She was a dedicated runner and I assumed that she was concentrating on her run because we had never engaged. For the first time, the woman stopped. She was effusive with her praise for Emma and the mural.
The neighbor went on to say that their middle child had passed away a few months ago and that he had loved taking pictures in front of the peacock that had been on the fence for three years. Emma and I stopped cold upon hearing the depth of this tragedy. Then our neighbor said, “Thank you for doing this, thank you for bringing joy to the neighborhood, thank you.” She started to tear up and then turned away to resume her run with her kids.
Emma and I stayed silent as we looked at each other with tears building in our eyes. We never know what someone may be carrying with them, but we do know that a simple act of sharing a gift may help lighten their load. For a brief moment, while the world paused, art and creation boldly moved forward, manifesting connections, building community, intersecting, and becoming one.
The “Swan Dive” mural is located at the corner of Park Street and Talbot Avenue in Avondale.
For an augmented, interactive experience, download the ARTIVIVE app on your mobile device and position your phone over the July/August Arbus Magazine cover and watch it come alive. The app can also be used in person when visiting the mural for an onsite intereactive experience.