JaxBest: Checking out the public art scene in Jacksonville

This week we are gearing up for our Jax Best campaign, presented by Visit Jacksonville, where you vote on your favorite things in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Jacksonville has always had some great museums and the Downtown Art Walk has been around for many years, but it wasn't until recent years that art started popping up on the sides of buildings there.

It was a tough sell in the beginning, but the woman behind Downtown Jacksonville's biggest murals said things have changed, and that's not the only place that's stretching its creative wings.

Have you been to the Downtown library lately?

There is an art gallery tucked within the thousands of books, all on the first floor. 

Right now, Reclaimed: Life Beyond the Landfill will get you thinking about how beautiful our trash can be in a second life.

Shawana Brooks has been the library's arts and culture developer for three years. She's brought creative light to a space that reaches thousands of visitors. From kids to adults, art gets people talking. 

"I've seen tremendous engagement from people coming in and being reminded of the stories about why they found the library was interesting to them in the first place. Visual literacy is so important, so maybe this wasn't the place that they expected to see this beautiful, curated artistic show that shows our local creatives, but you come in here and you get all of that for free," Brooks said.

MORE: Event schedule for Jacksonville Public Art Week June 17-22

Just a block from the Downtown library you can see the art on the street. In a little more than three years, 31 of these huge murals have popped up around Downtown and it's definitely not random.

Jessica Santiago, the founder of ArtRepublic, had the vision years ago and knew it wasn't going to be easy to get the money or support to plaster some of Jacksonville's most prominent Downtown buildings with paint.

"We would drive up and down the streets of Downtown. Our whole team would walk it and look for the best walls. The largest, the ones that had the most traffic traveling down, the ones with the most impactful locations," Santiago said.

One of the first murals is still the largest. It took three weeks to create and a 150-foot lift to get it done. The artist, Recca, proved the vision could become reality.

"So when he first came here, we took him out on a boat to see life on the river, and he got to meet locals, go to our local museums and really be affected by the Florida lifestyle all related to that," Santiago said.

Santiago believes art is also the key to tourism and dollars for a city. She envisions Jacksonville as an art destination and said the community is starting to see the vision as well.

"Now they see the work that we do, they see the quality, and they're used to it. It's great that now we're asked to do them," Santiago said.

JaxBest voting

Is there a mural that always catches your attention? We want to know which art locals love the most! Cast your vote for your favorite.

VOTE: Cast your vote for your favorite public art in Jacksonville

Voting started Monday and winners will be announced the week of July 8. You can vote once per day.

If you do not see your favorite on our JaxBest list, you have an option to write-in your candidate during the ballot process.

MORE: Vote for all your favorites in our JaxBest categories

About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.