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Looking Lab Installs Art In Vacant Downtown Storefronts

Downtown Jacksonville is getting a little more visually exciting thanks to The Looking Lab: Art in Empty Storefronts, a project that transforms empty storefront windows into mini pop-up art exhibits.It all started when Joy Leverette was inspired by vacant spaces while on her frequent walks downtown.

“[I] had the idea to create my own art work, create an art installation that would take up one window,” Leverette said. “I decided to expand on it and create a whole entire project with the intention of it becoming a program to leave no space empty downtown.”

The Looking Lab is funded by a spark grant presented by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. The first Looking Lab installation is at 107 East Bay St. next to Underbelly, but there are more to come. The grant is intended to fund four installations.

On Friday, March 28, the second one will debut at City Hall. It will be a nine-window display created by University of North Florida art students.

Professor Jenny Hager teaches sculpture at UNF and assigned her students the project of transforming the windows. She said all the credit goes to her students and she is just the curator for the project.

The students designed a concept called “Spaceshifts,” where each window is transformed into a specific environment. Coral reefs, mountains and even “other worlds” are all examples of the metamorphosis that the spaces will undergo.

“I’d like to see the program continue beyond the duration of the spark grant,” said Hager.

“I love the idea of transforming empty storefronts into lively spaces just to bring better energy and make our culture more vital to Jacksonville.”

Friday night’s unveiling at City Hall will also feature a performance by Jacksonville University choreography students and the presentation will be repeated on April 9.

The Looking Lab: Art in Empty Store fronts is a One Spark creator project. Leverette said other cities are doing similar store front initiatives and she hopes to receive crowd funds at the festival to continue the project.

You can follow Lindsey Kilbride on Twitter @lindskilbride.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.