Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Artists' Work Will Give City a Spark; Cultural Council Awards 4 Grants to Use Arts and Culture in a Bid to Revitalize Downtown

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Artists' Work Will Give City a Spark; Cultural Council Awards 4 Grants to Use Arts and Culture in a Bid to Revitalize Downtown

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

In October, four Jacksonville artists will begin work on projects designed to bring energy and attention to a section of downtown Jacksonville that the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville has designated the Spark District. Each artist has received a Spark grant, a new grant program created last spring by the Cultural Council.

"We're trying to use arts and culture as a means for revitalizing downtown," said Amy Palmer, the Cultural Council's director of grants administration.

The Spark grants are going to sculptor Jenny Hager, singer/songwriter Brad Lauretti, dancer/painter/performance artist Joy Leverette and playwright Ian Mairs.

Each will be doing creative things in a downtown district bounded by Duval, Hogan and Liberty streets and the St. Johns River. The $61,000 in grant money was raised from private sources.

"It's an interesting mix of artists," Palmer said. "We wanted to get the biggest bang for the buck."

"I'm really excited about these grant winners," said Robert Arleigh White, the Cultural Council's executive director. "They represent real

creativity and a high level of thinking for our city."

Hager, who teaches sculpture at the University of North Florida, calls her project Art in Public Places. It is modeled on the Art in Public Places program that is part of the annual Dogwood Arts Festival in Knoxville, Tenn., a program that places outdoor sculpture in Knoxville's parks each spring.

"It brings an incredible amount of energy to the town," Hager said.

Hager's goal is to get 10 to 12 sculptors to place their work in downtown Jacksonville, with the sculptures available for purchase. She doesn't anticipate problems attracting the artwork.

"As a sculptor myself, I'm always looking for opportunities to exhibit my work," she said.

In October, she'll issue a call for artists and put together a committee to pick sculptures and downtown sites in which to place them. The sculptures would then be located in the Spark District beginning next August.

Singer/songwriter Lauretti came to Jacksonville last year after being offered a summer residency by the downtown club Underbelly. He liked the experience so much he decided to stay in Jacksonville.

"It's a place that has a lot of opportunities," he said. "There are a lot of good venues and a lot of good musicians. You're within a one-day drive of Nashville and Atlanta and Miami and a lot of great college towns like Gainesville and Athens."

Now Lauretti, who is the coordinator of the Gram Parson's Songwriting Contest in Waycross, is the talent/booking manager for Underbelly and performs with the band This Frontier Needs Heroes. He wants to give other singer/songwriters "the Jacksonville experience." The Jacksonville Songwriters Residency will bring songwriters to live and perform in the Spark District.

Performance artist Leverette, who frequently combines painting and dancing and sometimes performs under the name Sister Feathertoe, is planning to do The Looking Lab: Art in Empty Storefronts. …

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