Downtown Jacksonville’s public art is becoming more highbrow, thanks to a project bringing museum pieces out into the streets.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is behind the project it’s calling Jax Outings.
On a recent afternoon, Kevin Talisman was walking down the Monroe Street sidewalk across from Hemming Park. When he sees it, he does a doubletake.
“I’ve walked here, and I’ve never even seen it before,” he says.
It’s on an off-white wall next to an alley.
“I guess it’s something kind of unique, you know?” he says. “It’s something different.”
Two female figures in 17th-century French clothes, larger than life, appear to be painted on the wall. They huddle together, looking toward the park.
Talisman continues, “It’s not like an epiphany or anything. It’s not like Jesus Christ is coming down,” but he concedes, “It’s nice, instead of just seeing a bunch of homeless people or a bunch of whatever, on a nice hot day you see a nice picture, and, yeah, I think it helps.”
Cummer Museum Executive Director Hope McMath says, “We just hope that there is any reaction, and that itself is meaningful.”
The Cummer is a stately museum about two miles away in Riverside. But, standing next to the wall art, McMath says, “Well, we’re sort of at the Cummer now, as we define the Cummer. So, we are on the streets of downtown Jacksonville.”
McMath says the image of the two girls on the wall is part of a larger French Baroque painting that hangs in the museum. It’s one of six images that have made their way outside as part of the museum’s Jax Outings project.
“I think often when we’re walking around our streets, our head is usually down, we’ve got earbuds in our ears, and I think a lot of times we’re looking at our devices. And so this is something that surprises people, I hope that it makes people pause to see something beautiful,” she says.
The Outings concept started in Paris. McMath says Jacksonville and New Orleans are the only two Southeastern U.S. cities participating.
The Cummer Museum plans to add five more pieces to the walls of downtown Saturday morning.
And for people who aren’t downtown, they can follow people’s reactions to the project on social media under the hashtag #JaxOutings.