When COVID hit, the subsequent restrictions eliminated many of the options from the lavish buffet that was our beforetimes social calendar. As we languished in the monotony of quarantine, COVID-safe alternatives—home workouts, twee craft projects, pickling, etc.—were all the rage. Mural tours, too, were encouraged in seemingly every major city as safe, art-centric activities, with well-intentioned souls proffering lists of installations worth putting one’s eyeballs on.
Kandice Clark has spent some time on mural sites. A longtime local arts advocate, she’s curated shows featuring works by local artists and runs her own arts-focussed blog, zenslayfu.com. Before COVID, Clark had already begun cataloging the abundance of murals by Black artists in and around Jacksonville, including ones done by her husband, Cooli Ras.
Then she saw the lists.
“All of the sudden there were all these posts about Go see these murals and I’d notice that there’d be a whole list and not a single artist would be a Black artist,” Clark remembers. “So that’s when I knew: we gotta get this popping. Because [mural tours] are something that you can do and stay six feet away from other people and be outside.”
Clark created the website blackmuralmap.com and an accompanying social feed (@blackmuralmap) as a resource to showcase any and all large-scale, public-facing art created by Black artists in Jacksonville. She launched both in the early summer of 2020 and to date, more than two dozen murals—including addresses, titles, and artist creds—have been added to the site, which also includes a Google Maps-compatible interface.
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It’s an ambitious project and an important resource, as evidenced by the support she’s received from the local arts community, and even folks from around the state of Florida hoping she’ll expand the project’s scope.
A fluid, ever-expanding endeavor, Clark continues to add new murals weekly.
“They’re everywhere,” she says. “From the beaches to Downtown to the Northside to this side and that side; I just want people to get out and see the beauty around them.”
We caught up with Clark and asked her about putting the city’s wealth of Black murals on the map.
Why was it important to you to undertake this project?
I found that I was always on mural sites and I’d gotten to know so many artists through my husband and working on my website. I started thinking that it’d be really cool to showcase the murals by Black artists and also murals featuring Black people. I know for a fact that a lot of times people have no idea about the artists who’ve created the murals around them. And a lot of times, especially if the mural doesn’t depict a Black person, people won’t assume that it was done by a Black artist. It was sparked by that and then I really ramped it up when I started seeing the mural lists at the beginning of COVID. I just thought it was crazy because I’m on all these mural sites watching Black artists and these lists wouldn’t include one mural by them. I just thought we gotta get people out here to look at these murals.
Tell me about the process of mapping the murals. How did you go about finding the murals, photographing them, etc.?
The process is just keeping my eye out and my ear to the ground. For the most part, either myself or my husband take the photos of the murals. Any images on the site that I didn’t take, I got permission from the photographer to use their photos. I kind of already knew where to find enough murals to get it started. A lot of the muralists are my close friends. And then, my husband is involved with Art Republic so we’re always aware of new installs that they are taking on.
Did you learn anything during the process of creating the Black Mural Map?
First of all, there are way more murals by Black artists than I originally thought. I haven’t had a chance to get them all on the map yet–I have a running list of a dozen or so that I need to get images for or just add to the map and [the list] keeps growing. And then, I’ve also learned that many of these murals have very deep background stories. For example the Brewster Hospital Mural, which depicts the nurses at Brewster Hospital; the first hospital for African Americans in Jacksonville. So it’s been really interesting to dive into the history of the city through its murals.
On top of that, I’ve learned that there is a deep interest in Black murals all across the state. I’ve had several people reach out to me and ask about expanding the Black Mural Map to include murals all across Florida.
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What do you hope people get out of this resource?
The goal has always been not only to map the murals. But I want this to spark more opportunities for Black artists. Beyond that, I just want people to realize that there is beauty all around us. There’s so much art here. And I think sometimes we get stuck in our neighborhood or section of town and we don’t see it all. But these murals are everywhere, from the beaches to downtown to the Northside to this side and that side. I just want people to get out and see the beauty around them. Because art makes you happy and makes your community better.
This article originally appeared as the Influencers feature in Void’s Feb. 2021 issue.