Jacksonville-based arts-focused org Art Republic has certainly transformed the city’s downtown. While the progress in Jax’s urban core is measured incrementally–a couple new restaurants here, a new residential project there–through four iterations of AR, and the addition of dozens of large-scale murals by an A-list team of local and international artists, DT Jax looks and feels different because of AR.
All this to say, the group’s newest project shouldn’t be taken lightly. Fifteen new murals are coming. And the theme of this year’s install “Lift Every Voice” is ambitiously focussed on murals that will not just augment the cityscape, but define it.
Pulled from the title of the song which came to be known as the Black National Anthem, which was written by one of Jacksonville’s most important historical figures–poet, musician, educator, and Harlem-renaissance luminary James Weldon Johnson–“Lift Every Voice” was curated to reflect the city’s authentic identity and history.
“A community thrives when it reflects the identity of the people within it,” reads a statement from Art Republic announcing the latest project. “For decades the city of Jacksonville has struggled to define its identity. In part because its true history was demolished and has been left largely untold.”
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A community thrives when it reflects the identity of the people within it. For decades the city of Jacksonville has struggled to define its identity. In part because its true history was demolished and has been left largely untold. We are proud to announce thirteen new public art installations, performances and films that will change that. With creative direction from @malcjax , @parsons and Ennis Davis with @thejaxsonmag we are producing the city’s first large scale project curated specifically to reflect the city’s authentic identity and history. There has never been a more important time to bring empowerment, compassion and empathy to the people of our community. We are calling upon our artists to be conduits for social change, to make the community identity more visible and to develop positive social networks to unify in a time of polarization. “Jacksonville’s long history of achievement through African Americans and people of color has been kept underground for years and now it’s time to teach our communities. This project is just a snapshot of this reawakening going on in the United States right now.”- @malcjax
Though arguably Jacksonville’s greatest cultural contribution to the story of America, the downtown adjacent neighborhood of LaVilla (once known as the “Harlem of the South”), where Johnson and many other culturally important figures lived, was razed long ago. The Ritz Theatre and Museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts and historical records from the neighborhood, but with no architectural footprint remains. It’s a story worth telling. And one of several Art Republic hopes to tell with its latest venture.
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Over the last five months we have watched our society change dramatically. We are at a tipping point and the actions we Collectively take now will affect our future for generations. We are thankful for the artists who demonstrate the change we want to see. Through the minds of these Creators, we will transcend these challenging times.
With creative direction from photographer Malcolm Jackson, visual artist PARSONS, and writer and community activist Ennis Davis, artists will begin their large scale works the week of August 10.
“Jacksonville’s long history of achievement through African Americans and people of color has been kept underground for years and now it’s time to teach our communities,” says Jackson. “This project is just a snapshot of this reawakening going on in the United States right now.”