For many residents of Jacksonville, it has become easy to criticize and never give a second thought to our city’s ability to be a place of culture. For some, it is more convenient to bow out and find some other established metropolis.
I would ask you to consider that the reason Jacksonville seems so depressed as a cultural hub is not because there isn't anything good happening downtown or because downtown “sucks.” And, it’s not because there isn’t rail or an easy way to get downtown (who wants to go someplace where its cultural integrity has been lost?)
The reason we’ve lost our cultural vigor is because we have so few artists and cultural advocates in the River City. They’ve either been run out or they gave up trying.
I’ve met several people over the years who look at the place in which they live only to find what they can get from it. It is disheartening that we are the ones killing our city while at the same time blindly pointing a finger at everybody else for our city’s issues.
But there is hope. I’ve lived in Jacksonville since 1996. There has been progress made. There are people who are making a difference. I believe that Jacksonville is moving forward (however slow it is).
The reason for this column is to convince you that you can be an advocate for change in this city, your home. You can come alongside others who love this city and hope for its economic and cultural betterment. Jacksonville needs artists and culture makers who are committed to staying around for a long time to make things happen.
So, what can I do about it? What can you do about it? Here’s some practical things that can be done so Jacksonville can become the city it was created to be.
- Be an artist, making the best art you can, in Jacksonville.
- Be an art supporter in Jacksonville. Get to know artists and their work and go to their shows. Additionally, go to MOCA (downtown) and the Cummer Museum (Riverside).
- Become a patron of Jacksonville artists. You don’t need to be rich to do this. This is the most immediate impact that you can have in the art community.
- Be hospitable to artists in Jacksonville (There is an ever-growing population in the Riverside and Springfield communities.) Get to know them personally and invite them into your home.
- Get involved to help the arts grow in your community. This includes doing things such as voting individuals into office who are for promoting the arts. Elected officials are the ones who determine where funds go.
By no means am I suggesting that these are easy steps to take. It takes commitment and perseverance to stay with something for a long time. To see this happen you must dig your hands into the dirt and do the hard labor so that, in time, good fruit will come to bear. If you desire to “make it” as an artist, Jacksonville may not be the place for you. Feel free to venture elsewhere. However, if you have a heart for the city, if you desire to see and cultivate growth for the long term, then Jacksonville needs you more than ever. Right now. For the city.
Editorial by Thony Aiuppy
Thony Aiuppy is a recognized Jacksonville painter. He's currently pursuing his Masters in Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). Yes, he still lives in Jacksonville but travels quite a bit to Savannah.