JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council is trying to draw businesses and visitors downtown through art.
This week, the council voted 16-1 to set aside $2.5 million for the Downtown Investment Authority, and more than $400,000 of that is designated for public art in Jacksonville's urban core.
The first projects could spring up in June. Those projects include murals and sculptures as well as live events around art installations.
The projects will be seen as pilots that can eventually be expanded to other neighborhoods in the city.
Artists said they have wanted this for a while and are happy to see the funding.
"It's just very reassuring," local artist Nicole Holderbaum said. "We get to live our dream and our city supports us. It's just really empowering for all of us."
The council is also eying 18 city-owned utility boxes for decoration, which has artists talking.
In March 2014 artist Kevin Southworth was arrested for painting graffiti on a utility pole. Police said he caused $1,100 worth of damage to utility boxes (pictured above).
Southworth was ordered to pay more than $300 in fines and pay almost $800 in restitution, as well as complete 50 hours of community service.
But now the city is welcoming artwork on the boxes.
Holderbaum said although Southworth went about it the wrong way, it may have helped open the eyes of those in the city to the possibilities of street art in Jacksonville.
"Cheers to him also for doing that and making these moves because maybe without him then we wouldn't be where we are right now," Holderbaum said.
For artists interested in applying for commissions, the council will soon hold workshops on preparing a portfolio.