By Laura Riggs | Photos by Doug Eng
The CoRK Arts District, the first of its kind artists’ district in Jacksonville, opened ten years ago. It has since grown from one building to three with a mission to support artists in the community by offering workspaces for creativity and collaboration. True to its mission, the district’s artists were invited to express themselves by painting murals on the building’s exterior. With Bold City Brewery across Rosselle Street, the area became a destination for local arts and cultural events, shows, film screenings, poetry readings, and open night galleries for artists to display and sell their work. Where there were once vacant buildings and industrial warehouses mixed in with residential homes, there are now a group of buildings with vibrant work done in the street art tradition.
The corner of Rosselle and King sits at the intersection of the Riverside, Lackawanna, and Mixon Town communities—a mix of some of the wealthiest and most impoverished areas in Jacksonville. The communities have been historically segregated, with the highway serving as a demarcation line to divide race and economics. After leaving the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Hope McMath felt that this area made sense for her next venture in her continuing journey to create meaningful change in Jacksonville. In 2017, she opened Yellow House just up from CoRK on King Street with the core belief that the arts are vital to building relationships between people and communities.
On its website, Yellow House is described as, “more than a physical space; it is a hub for educational outreach and collaborations among artists, writers, organizations, and communities.” After featuring her work in an exhibit in 2019, Tatiana Kitchen (@phoenixaaart on Instagram) was eager to showcase her talent on a larger canvas. When she put in a request for a wall on social media, McMath happily responded that she wanted to support Kitchen with what she had available on Yellow House. McMath lovingly describes Kitchen’s mural “Hands of Dawn,” which faces the corner of Phyllis and King Streets, as an “empowering perspective of Black women as goddesses, creators, and mothers.”
The mural is also the inspiration for Yellow House’s latest project, The Community Tree: A Place of Grief and Hope. “Right now, we are closed,” explains McMath, “so we have shifted Yellow House’s work inside to out.” After spending time breathing in Tatiana’s mural, local artist Yvette Angelique Hyater-Adams created a piece of poetry for this moment titled “The Reckoning Line Between Shadow and Shine.” McMath had the poem printed on a 12-foot banner and installed it temporarily next to “Hands of Dawn.” “Public art should involve the public,” McMath says, “it can be an impactful way to fill an immediate need to build community.” This is why McMath then put out the call to anyone from the public to come experience the mural, read Yvette’s poem, and write messages on purple and yellow ribbons as a way to “document our losses, and lift up our gratitude.”
Public art is more than murals. It creates a place and offers the ability to build community, to mourn, to seek change, and to heal. On this corner, Yellow House has demonstrated that “the power and beauty that centers on these Black women have transformed what would normally seem to some an unsightly corner and made it something special.”