Currently, I am developing an article on what it means to be an artist in a city where all hopes of being “successful” seem to be dashed. In the meantime, I wanted to share some thoughts on what it looks like to be an artist and/or cultural citizen for the city.
For many residents in my town (Jacksonville, Florida) it seems so easy to criticize and never give a second thought to this city’s ability to grow into the place of culture it was meant to be. For some, it seems more convenient to bow out and find some other established metropolis to find fame and success.
I would ask you to consider that the reason Jacksonville seems so depressed as a cultural hub is not that there isn’t anything good happening downtown or that 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?). I presume the reason we’ve lost our cultural vigor in the River City is because there are so few artists and cultural advocates in this city (they’ve either been run out or gave up trying) who are actually for the city.
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 poking 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 making progress (however slow it is). The reason for this post 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 stay around for a long time and 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 that 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 for those into office who are for promoting the arts in Jacksonville. 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 throw your hands into the dirt and do the work of 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.