This mural will soon be black if the city commission keeps true to its vote.
Just this week, the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission concluded that this building’s windows would have to be secured and “neutral in color” according to the city’s mothballing procedure.
This shows how some of Jacksonville’s ordinances prevent and hinder public art in the city. The city’s efforts go towards preserving property values over displaying and elevating art. Money over culture, even.
This can be summed up in Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission member Jennifer Mansfield’s words, “If you start to apply an exception for art then, what’s art? It gets the government into the business of saying what is and isn’t art.”
It’s all art; but If anything, Thurston is art. Instead of trying to decide on keeping this piece of art, the commission made a decision about art existing on this wall at all. This is is at odds with the city’s recent strides toward creating a vibrant and revitalized urban core. Art is a necessary part of this revitalization. Without support for public art, the cultural component of the city’s plan will fall short.
It would be a quick decision for city officials to view Shaun Thurston’s work as art. Thurston graduated from Douglas Anderson, Jacksonville’s nationally recognized public high school for the arts which is currently undergoing a $16 million expansion. This school, just like Thurston, has developed a strong artistic following and presence in the city. The removal of this mural is a sign of how you can be raised in or come to Jacksonville to study art, sure, but to remain here in the art scene is a different story.
The Crystals on Forsyth are an extension of the Project Atrium installation Thurston created in MOCA after winning the top dollar prize at the inaugural One Spark in 2013. In Shaun’s own words, he is trying to “change the frequency of the area – to try and benefit the area, rather than… vandalism.” He uses these crystals as a metaphor for the city’s “appetite for public art – something that could grow if the environment was right for it.”
Is the environment right for art?
So what is mothballing anyway? The ordinance focuses on securing the building’s openings from vandals and weather while attempting to maintain street appeal by painting the windows black in order to appear as an empty room with the lights off. It also serves a way for building owners to restore buildings and reduce fines or prevent demolitions from the city. Most structures are given six months once approved to be restored. With historic buildings like this one, the city allows 3 years.
But that doesn’t mean it needs to be destroyed or painted over. The owner Chris Hionides can remove the mural boards and put up fresh black boards, easily. If removed, then where would the mural go? Seeing these mural panels become collector’s pieces around Jacksonville would show strong support for the arts.
Shaun’s Thurston’s Crystals on West Forsyth Street has seen the end of its days, unfortunately. Luckily, there are more murals around the city. For now.