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In America, Jacksonville is big. It has the largest population in Florida, and is technically the largest city by area in the United States. It also has a growing contemporary art scene. Aside from established museums and galleries, visitors downtown will stumble across great independent galleries showing a wealth of established, up-and- coming and local artists.
Conceived by developer Mac Easton and artist Dolf James, CoRK (Corner of Rosselle & King) isn’t justone gallery per se, but rather a collective series of spaces where artists can work under one banner. The artists featured include Thony Aiuppy, Virginia Cantore, Olivia Carr, George Cornwell, Jim Draper and Donald Dusinberre, though the list stretches further than that. And with a wide range of mediums covered by the artists, there’s certainly a real mix of things to see here. Still, the 80,000 square feet of CoRK isn’t always available to walk around as a member of the public – access usually comes through special events, although it can also be arranged by special appointment.
Any art-lovers tired of seeing the same old thing should pop down to Tony Ryals’ gallery, where he creates beautiful works of art in a particularly unusual way. The clue’s in the name – Ryals was born without the use of his arms and his legs, and now paints with the brush clamped in his mouth. It’s a heartwarming story, but that’s not all there is to it; Ryals’ work is excellent in its own right, and the amount of detail he’s able to create in incredible, from the smallest feather on a hummingbird’s wing, to the colours of the brilliant sun setting on a violent sea.
The Art Center Cooperative, Inc. is a non-profit organisation as well as a gallery, with a mission to provide the Jacksonville community with the work of expert artists, working together to find excellence in art and to promote their craft. Gallery and studio artists alike seek to work with members of the community in order to grow the Jacksonville art industry and improve the quality of life for the local citizens of the area. A noble cause, but there’s also plenty of great pieces to anjoy here even without the moral high ground, with featured artists given prominence in the MainGallery and member artists including Bronwen Chandler, Christian Gonzales, Dallas Primavera and Annelies M. Dykgraaf.
Another local collective, the 25 local artists involved with the Southlight Gallery have made it their mission to create, curate and present a diverse selection of pieces from established and emerging local artists at large regional events, in the process interacting with the public and establishing connections with art lovers from far and wide to further the promotion of art.
It may not be the most vibrant of mediums and a little niche, but the charcoal sketches that Adrian Pickett Jr creates and displays in his eponymous gallery are well worth the visit. Richly and confidently drawn, they have a humanity and sense of life that belies their muted medium. And for any critics still doubtful, Pickett has this to say: ‘I believe that the quality of art should not be based on its medium nor canvas, but rather by the skill of the artist. I give a little of myself in creating which adds soul to my subjects. I am committed to expounding a new-found respect for the use of charcoal in Fine Arts.’