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Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library to the City: Don't Cut Our Budget, Raise It

This morning, Friends of Jacksonville Public Library gathered in front of the Main Library with a plea to the city: Don't cut our budget-restore it.

The group believes the mayor's proposed $500,000 cut to the materials budget will further diminish the quality and number of library resources available to the public. The mayor's office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

In a handout distributed at the press conference this morning, the Friends point out that the library's materials budget was $5.3 million in 2005; for next fiscal year, the entire materials budget, $2.9 million, is less than 2005's print books budget alone. The city isn't the only one slashing the library's budget; the state has proposed a $150,000 reduction in the funding it provides to JPL, according to the handout.

Fewer resources mean longer wait times for popular titles, and fewer periodicals and other materials. Anyone who has tried to check out a new bestseller knows the "hold" blues. Wait times of several months for popular titles and films are not uncommon.

To address the accumulated loss in purchasing power caused by 13 years of cuts, the Friends are asking for an increase of $850,000 for materials and $1.1 million to add a sixth day of service at nine branches: Argyle, Beaches, Mandarin, Maxville, Murray Hill, San Marco, South Mandarin, West and Willowbranch.

Along with several others, Friends member Harry Reagan, a former president of the group, lamented how few libraries are open on Sundays; they'd like to see all libraries open six days a week. According to the library website, of 21 branches, only five-Main, Highlands Regional, Pablo Creek Regional, Southeast Regional, Charles Webb Wesconnett Regional-are open on Sundays, and for only four hours in the afternoon.

In an apparent nod to the proposed addition of 100 new cops to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, for which funding is included in this year's budget, Reagan noted that the …   More

Shocking Event & UNSETTLING Art


Inside a tiny Murray Hill apartment, artist Paul Owen Weiner is laboring on a new body of work. It's designed to challenge viewer’s (and his own) notions of patriotism, nationalism and anxiety. He’s here in Jacksonville as the current resident artist of Long Road Projects, the artist residency and edition house founded in 2016 by Stevie Covart Garvey and Aaron Levi Garvey.

“My work usually starts with some kind of shocking event,” he said, “and the [2016] election was that shocking event … there was no turning back.”

A native of Aurora, Colorado, Weiner talked about the ways in which he thinks art should operate—as a part of a larger dialogue without a crisp ideological edge. He notes that being in Aurora when the Century Cinema 16 mass shooting occurred directly influenced his work—away from obsessive personal mark-making and into things dealing with information and misinformation; and how physical places inform bodies of work: “there is history, but which history,” he posed rhetorically.

The new in-process pieces are a suite of American flags that have been painted black, and the accompanying paper pieces divorce the symbols of the flag from their context (stripes and stars). “These black flags ask you to be introspective about your relationship to America,” said the artist. “I am interested in these as a mirror of society [...] and as a mirror of the person standing in front of it.”

The question, of America and American-ness, is one that always needs examination, but now, as Washington seems determined to return to the “great” days of buggy whip factories and hand-crank telephones (because really, who does know how computers work?), and of one kind of American; discourse and disagreement are more important than ever. Right now, said Weiner, his biggest concern isn’t the people who might disagree with him; it is censorship …   More


A New Job for SPICEY

The moment that pundits have been predicting for months came this afternoon, when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned his post. Sob. We actually kinda liked that guy. Like stinky, cranky, kleptomaniac Aunt Mildred, sometimes you only realize how much you cared about someone after they're gone.

Now that Spicey has been freed from endless Melissa McCarthy impressions of him and classic Saturday Night Live gags, he can finally pursue his longtime dreams of becoming:

Mike Tyson's sparring partner. Nothing hits like the champ, except working in the Trump White House.

Kim Jong Un's ass wiper. Sure, it stinks and the pay's shitty. (See what we did there? Nyuk nyuk nyuk.) But Un can only drop so many bombs a day, unlike a certain orange commander-in-tweets who shall not be named. Ever wonder what "beautiful chocolate cake" looks like post digestion? Spicey knows.

Dumpster fireman. With his experience, he'll sale through the application process for this dream job.

Sewer rat. Spicer has clearly proven his ability to swim through rivers of filth and keep smiling.

James Comey's roommate. Feels like these two crazy cats will have lots and lots to talk about.

Cleveland Browns new mascot. What? Like there's a worse job than Donald Trump's Press Secretary.

But who are we kidding? Obviously he's going to write a tell-all book. It's a pretty predictable move, but you know you'll read the hell out of it.



Edging into Art Historical LORE

Jerry Uelsmann is inarguably one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, in terms of technical ability and longevity. As a former professor at the University of Florida (1960-’98), his impact on and accessibility to photographers on the First Coast has had a tangible imprint on the work made here (and on anyone using the Adobe suite of photo-editing tools).

He also has contacts here, and thus, it’s not unusual to see his name pop up in tandem with Jacksonville artists, in Jacksonville galleries.

Right now, as a part of Southlight Gallery’s Summer Wall display, there is an Uelsmann print, Myth of the Trees, on view.

It is an exemplar of his work.

Seamless and dreamlike, it obliquely references The Hallucinogenic Toreador: a female form within a male form, both seemingly joined to land and sky, with a starburst in the heart-space of the female form. As images go—especially Uelsmann’s—it is accessible in a linear kind of way.

However, it also raises the specter of Diane Arbus. Arbus, whose works (and lifestyle) couldn’t be further from Uelsmann’s own, once visited his class in Gainesville as a guest lecturer.

According to Arthur Lubow, who wrote the 2016 biography, the visit was not an overwhelming success.

Asked by Uelsmann if she’d like to view his own work, Arbus sped through about 15 prints in two minutes, and then announced she was ready to go to the airport.

One faculty member characterized her talk as marked by “an almost aggressive vulnerability,” while Lubow himself writes about her in such a way as to suggest that she enjoyed shocking—with talk of menstruation and nudist colonies—the university folks.

This is just a tiny footnote in art history, but it's the kind of absurd tidbit that is ever so tasty to know. To reflect on this a little more, visit Southlight Gallery, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue.-Fri., at 50 N. Laura St., Ste. 150, Downtown, …   More


All the LIGHT You Can See

One of the things about contemporary art is that it is, in fact, contemporary. The SCAD Museum of Art up in Savannah is almost always worth the two-hour drive straight up I-95.

This summer, the museum has mounted a particularly impressive suite of solo shows. Of special interest are the works in an exhibition of Carlos Cruz-Diez's chromatic provocations. Cruz-Diez primarily works in the realm of color theory and intervention-as such, his works are chromatic studies that seem to change color and move, depending on the viewer's position and eye movement in relation to the image.

These works are especially interesting in light of MOCA Jacksonville's newest atrium installation, by Gabriel Dawe, Plexus No. 38. Dawe is garnering international attention for his extraordinary use of simple materials in an ongoing series of formalist explorations into color and light: an exploration of the full visible spectrum of light. Dawe uses sewing thread and hooks to craft abstract, somewhat architectural renderings in the air that seem to shift as the viewer shifts her/his position in relation to the work. As Alicia Ault wrote, "It is almost as if the artist embroidered the air."

Like Cruz-Diez, Dawe makes experiential works. However, in leaving the boundaries of Earth, Dawe has not only made light visible, but tangible, too. Seeing both artists' works within days of one another adds depth to both experiences and makes whole the argument for those artists who chose to operate within a more formal aesthetic.

For more about Gabriel Dawe, check out our recent interview with him.   More


REBELS from Space

There's been a lot of talk about Confederate symbols of late. In recent years cities like Orlando and New Orleans have removed their monuments to the failed rebellion of the 1860s, states like South Carolina have finally taken the Confederate flag off the state capitol dome, and even Jacksonville has acquiesced to demands to rename Nathan Bedford Forrest High School literally anything but that. It's gotten some folks to wondering if our Confederate statues are coming down next. They've even gone and started a petition.

Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Sure, Robert E. Lee didn't start the Ku Klux Klan, but he was a general in the Confederate Army, and he's still got a local high school named after him, a school that has the Generals as its mascot and calls its yearbook The Blue and Gray, a school that's located in a ZIP code where nearly a third of the population is black--and there are no plans to change that school's name anytime soon. (Other local schools named for Confederate "heroes" include: Jefferson Davis Middle School, Kirby Smith Middle School and J.E.B. Stewart Middle School.)

Even if efforts to change the names of the aforementioned schools and remove the monuments are somehow successful, there's another little-known local Confederate tramp stamp in the aptly named Confederate Park.

Look at the aerial Google photo below. Notice anything, um, rebellious?


Now check out the topographical picture. See a familiar shape?


A closer look:


Yep, Confederate Park is basically laid out in the shape of a Confederate flag. You might not notice it at first glance, but trust us, it's like the Man in the Moon: Once you see it, you can never unsee it.

Makes us wonder if the park designers saw into the future when other towns would start trying to heal the wounds of the past by removing statues and markers and were like, "Nuh-uh. Hey, Nate B., hold my beer. We're gonna build a Confederate flag you can …   More


EXPRESS Yourself

On a side road off of Edgewood Avenue sits a small, nondescript building. Inside is the Murray Hill Art Center, which serves as a home to the Art League of Jacksonville (ALJ). Inside, teacher William McMahan begins his 3 p.m. class with a group critique. McMahan guides his students in how to critique each other’s works. Rather than being anxious about any criticisms, all but one were eager to have both their artistic assets and flaws explained to them by McMahan. The walls of the room are an office-like off white. Yet colorful paintings cover each wall, their colors only broken up by a few shelves of pottery. Improvements on last week’s work are pointed while some offer suggestions design principles and techniques.

A sense of community is apparent. Side chatter and laughing join their commentaries about each other and their positive progressions from when they first began taking the class.

Every class begins in the same way: 30 minutes of group critique from McMahan and the other artists. As he gives praise, he follows with specific suggestions and even makes strokes and, after asking each student’s permission, he outlines on each individual’s work.

Since 2012, McMahan has been a teacher at ALJ. In that short amount of time, he has witnessed its expansion and progression, as well as its ability to form bonds between artists.

Classes are home to all kinds of artists, ranging from novices to experts. Even those like well-known Jacksonville artist Cookie Davis continue to attend classes through the ALJ to be inspired by others and continue to improve.

“I believe everyone has an inherent artistic ability. Everyone improves and broadens their art through ALJ,” says McMahan, explaining that no knowledge of art or even skill level is required to sign up. “People have evolved so much. I say [to my artists], ‘Look at everyone’s techniques and be inspired by everyone …   More


The POWER of oMS

In 2012, Cheryl Russell and Megan Weigel, two working mothers in Jacksonville Beach, discovered they shared a vision based on their passion for yoga and appreciation of its positive effects on health.

When Russell and Weigel met at a multiple sclerosis support luncheon in 2011, neither anticipated the effect they would have on one another. "It was the first event I went to after my diagnosis. I told somebody I wanted to teach people with MS yoga ... and she said 'You need to meet Megan,'" Russell explains.

It turned out that each had dreamed of creating a yoga program for patients with multiple sclerosis.

A year later, the two ran into each other again at a Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga session; it was then they started the journey to create yoga classes for MS patients in earnest and their brainchild, the ever-growing oMS Yoga, was born.

The two talked to the founder of the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, Baron Baptiste, and told him their wishes about starting a yoga program solely for those with MS. Russell says their declaration to each other on the day they reached out to Baptiste was this: 'If we say this to Baron, there's no turning back.' And they haven't-oMS will celebrate its five-year anniversary in November.

"The name is a combination of the phrase "omm" and the symbol [representing] "omm," which, when flipped, looks kind of like the letters O, M and S put together," Russell said.

oMS Yoga offers four classes a week in six-week intervals at one of four locations, including Big Fish Yoga, MBody, Dragon Dance and HotSpot. Classes follow the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga methodology, as the women believe it suits those with MS and allows them to participate freely. Weigel provides medicinal knowledge of the disease and Russell offers the support and empathy of a fellow MS patient.

The women weren't met with many obstacles on their journey to create oMS Yoga. They applied for a grant through the North Florida chapter of the Multiple …   More


Salad DAYS

People pining for the ‘80s are psychotic. Or they simply never experienced the Reagan era and are now piecing together nostalgic news blips and sound bites from Netflix shows and the “retro” virus that continues to permeate all things. The ‘80s was a ten-year epoch that saw the brutal arrival of AIDS, the ascent of the crack epidemic, and the Eugenics-born smirk of Yuppies. A popular line of clothing was titled “Members Only,” which sums up the dualistic, VIP versus uncool ’80s all too well. If one needs to see the karmic whip crack of the decade, alive and in person, they need look no further than to the salt-bloat-driven, bilious, panting, and embarrassing tweets of Donald Trump, the de facto “Totally ‘80s” President. There is always the same kind of five kids who were popular and enjoyed every facet of high school—and the ‘80s was their fucking decade and now we have their President. The chickens have come home to roost and they are shitting on everything in sight.

I digress.

Thankfully, for the pariahs and untouchables of that decade, they did witness and share in the undeniable and extreme evolution of two mighty forces: skateboarding and hardcore punk.

The new documentary, Blood and Steel: Cedar Crest Country Club, focuses on the give-and-take within the East Coast skate and punk rock communities, specifically in the city, nearbby suburbs, and hinterlands of Washington DC. Over the course of the film’s 77 minutes, director Michael Maniglia utilizes interviews with key figures in the skate and punk scenes, VHS home movies, TV news stories, and photos galore, to shed much light on a truly positive moment of '80s American history: youth in revolt and youth in the solution to get things done. While Blood and Steel is surely geared towards skateboarders, its recurring theme of building, sustaining, and even protecting community — in this case a “place of peace and …   More


Raising the BARS

Many fear incarceration. Yet for those who wind up behind bars, the experience of simply being human is soon relegated to a raw-albeit-complex existence, in a hostile realm where ideals like fairness and justice are locked up tight. In writer-director Drew L. Brown’s drama Sentences, the audience is shown through blunt, unflinching drama that sometimes unfairness in our criminal justice system begins the moment one is charged with a crime.

Currently on stage at Players by the Sea in Jax Beach, Sentences is loosely based on Brown’s adolescent years, when his mother Robin Owens was serving time in prison. The play starts with Robin (Rita Manyette) being booked into the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) in Tallahassee. She is soon befriended by Celestina Rodriguez (Julie Ann Dinneweth), who helps show the terrified new inmate the ropes around the facility. It becomes clear that Robin’s new life in the FDC isn’t going to be a smooth stay.

Sentences is a darkly emotional two hours onstage. Inmate abuse, drug deals and corruption are daily occurrences in the FDC. Over the course of the play’s two acts, inmates and guards tell their respective stories of what brought them to that particular place and why they now stand on one side or the other of the cell-block doors. These moments of self-disclosure cast greater light on the complex twists and turns of class, race and our judicial system—elements that are imprisoning to some while freeing others. Brown is deft in sending his message of compassion, fairness and justice directly through these characters’ lives. Without being heavy-handed, Brown addresses larger, universal issues like sexism, racism, justice and addiction with the same credible skills.

A simple-yet-effective multimedia-like atmosphere increases the overall experience of seeing Sentences. Minimal lighting, unique audio effects, even dance—all help in framing the play’s action. Additional …   More