Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A 'Painting Event' Raises Funds for Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens; ARTISTS IN THEIR HABITAT

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A 'Painting Event' Raises Funds for Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens; ARTISTS IN THEIR HABITAT

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

For 37 local and regional landscape artists, this week will provide a chance to create their art in a spectacular natural setting in front of an audience.

The occasion is "A Brush with Nature: A 'Plein Air' Painting Event," a fund-raiser for the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens.

The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is one of Jacksonville's hidden treasures. For years, the property, owned by the city, went unused except as a buffer for a water reclamation facility on Millcoe Road off Monument Road near the Florida 9A overpass.

The 120 acres that make up the Arboretum were owned from 1941 to 1961 by the Humphries Gold Mining Co., which strip-mined the area for zircon and other minerals used to make titanium.

When the mining operation ended, what was left behind were rolling sand dunes.

For the next half-century the land was mostly left alone, except for the occasional invader who came to dump trash there.

That gave the site the chance to revert to a natural state, one that encompasses 13 distinct ecosystems. As a result, "the landscape within the arboretum contains almost all the natural beauty the First Coast offers in one location, from marshes to xeric rosemary scrub uplands," said Rachel Sulkers, a senior scientist with Environmental Services Inc., who serves on the arboretum's board and leads guided tours there.

A non-profit board was established and leased the land from the city in 2006 with the idea of creating an arboretum. Volunteers went to work, cleaning up the garbage that had been dumped and creating six trails through the grounds. Those trails range from 800 feet to one mile.

The arboretum is now open to the public at no charge during daylight hours seven days a week. Dogs are allowed as long as they are kept on a leash.

Beginning Thursday, the participating artists will fan out throughout the grounds and begin painting. …

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