It’s late at night at CoRK Arts District and instead of cleaning or prepping for our upcoming Open Studio event, I am wandering around, looking at the art on the walls. I’m thinking about what it means to make art in a place that has leaders as crooked as the river that bisects the city; I wonder what it means to make art in a place where we fight the tide and lose, a place that has no physical or moral center. 

Then it hits me, those questions, timely as they are (JEA sale bamboozlements, I’m looking at you), don’t really matter because just about everyone around me is deeply engaged in a questioning-and-answering process of their own devising. Also, many of us are, as I type this feeling a bit frantic: There are those of us who are a little short-breathed and panicky (my studio-mate, Mary St. Germain is putting the finishing touches on a couple of new pieces and we’ve got our fingers crossed that the varnish dries in time). Painter Princess Simpson Rashid’s newest body of work has been a deep dive into color and form, around the colors yellow and black: the resultant works are playfully rigorous. 

The CoRK studio of artist, Crystal Floyd

Artwork by CoRK artist, Princess Simpson Rashid

Then there are those like Laurie Hitzig and Larry Wilson who’ve got their exquisite space all set up (we hear that Wilson has a new series of abstract paintings afoot); and Erin Kendrick, who has got a plan to keep CoRK East literally on our toes: dapper rapper and deejay Mr. Al Pete will be performing in her space. 

Cork Labs, home to Overstreet Ducasse, Jeff Luque, and Zac Freeman–adjacent to painters Keith Doles, Allison Watson, Kenny Wilson and Maiya Phillips, and Chip Southworth’s studios (respectively) is always a chill spot worth spending time in: the conversation and art are both often elevated. Speaking of elevation, I also noticed that Overstreet Ducasse has built a small stage on the eastern end of East…what could be planned?    

I snuck into Cork West, to see what they’re working on—in addition to the space that Crystal Floyd shares with Jamie Jordan and Olivia Carr—which is an ever-evolving work itself, George Cornwell and Noli Novak are planning a total remount of the show “Mother’s Little Angels” that examines notions of innocence and the evolution of conscious evil (at Space 42). Painter Paul Ladnier, who has taught generations of painting students, and is deeply beloved in our community makes works that are worth a very, very close look. 

The CoRK Open Studio day is one of the most eagerly anticipated of the year–at least by CoRK denizens. We open the doors to our spaces and let any curious passerby in. The result is a big-hearted, laughter and conversation filled day where we visit with old friends and make some new ones. 

CoRK artist Overstreet Ducasse with one of his pieces.

Big-hearted is certainly the descriptor to use in considering the artists of CoRK North, award-winning designer and watercolorist Karen Kurycki, her studio-mates: photographer Amy Ploss-Samson and illustrator Jen Arevalo. Just next door is Tiffany Manning’s space, who is recognized for the exuberant paintings she makes that reflect her joy, followed by Babs’ Lab–Barbara Colaciello and Mark Creegan’s shared theater/studio space. And that’s just to call out the first folks a visitor is likely to meet, all of who are engaging and kind. Additionally, playwright Jennifer Chase maintains a work space as do the painters Tony Wood, Jim Gold, and Frank Matthews. Wood’s work is especially seductive, (almost literally) and there’s a lyricism to it that is in evidence through his oeuvre. Photographer Doug Eng maintains a space in North as does painter Eve Albrecht who shares space with fellow painters Susan Daly, Richard Joseph, and Anna Miller.

A quick peek into North reveals that they’re planning a salon-style installation of many of the artists over there. With luck, visitors will get to see embroidery artist Aysha Miskin’s works next to Creegan’s absurdist comb paintings.

This year in coordination with Open Studios, Space 42 and Yellow House will be open. Additionally, the new workshop space in CoRK East will host Virtual Reality painting demonstration sessions led by Anthony Catanese and will be used as a teaching and pop up space showcasing local artists and arts organizations in the future. In sum, over the course of a day, visitors can expect to have an immersive experience with the artists who call Jacksonville home, no matter what nonsense and nepotism City Hall gets up to.

CoRK artist, George Cornwell looks ready to show you his studio.

Artists: Stephen Dunn,  J. Kenneth Koster Jr., Kevin Arthur, Pablo Rivera, George Cornwall, Noli Novak, Crystal Floyd, Jamie Jordan, Olivia Carr, Ken Stutes, Paul Ladnier, Jensen Hande, Al Letson, Willie Evans Jr., Mo Ricks, Mary St. Germain, Madeleine Peck Wagner, Larry Wilson, Laurie Hitzig, Princess Simpson Rashid, Laura Evans, Jesse Brantman, Jim Webb, Michael Cavendish, Joseph Provenza, Jake Carlson, Emine Zander, Erin Kendrick, Susan Ober, Kenny Wilson, Maiya Phillips, Marisa Yow, Allison Watson, Keith Doles, Chip Southworth, Marcus Williams, Overstreet Ducasse, Zac Freeman, Jeffery Luque, Stephanie Glen, Virginia Cantore, Robyn Andrews, Dennis Ho, Jennifer Chase, Frank Matthews, Tony Wood, Tunji Fadiora, Kevin Fincel, Robert Leedy, Jim Gold, Eve Albrecht, Susan Daly, Richard Joseph, Leigh Rodante, Barbara Colaciello, Mark Creegan, Tiffany Manning, Karen Kurycki, Amy Ploss Sampson, Jen Arevalo, Fabricio Farias, Lauren Trump, Aysha Miskin, Howard Kirk, Doug Eng, Pamela Zambetti, Jeff Whipple, Liz Gibson, Mark McCombs.