A city’s cultural capital depends on the quantity and quality of its creative class. For two-and-a-half centuries, this country’s greatest gift to the world has been attracting immigrants who add their own perspective to the cultural fabric, whose diverse aesthetics and approaches influence a mesh of ideas that accelerates our collective growth.
Jacksonville has its fair share of cultural creatives; one of note is Kedgar Volta. Since arriving in Jacksonville, Volta—a native of Cuba—has consistently pushed innovation further and further.
In 2014, he produced “Me Embellished,” which stopped thousands in their tracks during Downtown’s ArtWalk to gaze at more than 300 portraits hung on a building at the corner of Laura and Monroe. Each subject willingly abandoning their usual appearance in favor of emphasizing the strange and uncomfortable—contrary to how we typically project ourselves in the public arena.
Volta’s work as an artist runs parallel to his work as a graphic designer. For eight years, he was one of the powerhouse creatives at Brunet-García, a local advertising agency whose work reaches millions through an extensive list of contracts with government agencies.
While at Brunet-García, Volta befriended Joash Brunet. The two eventually stepped out on their own to seek the nexus among art, advertising and technology, launching the interactive experiential agency Castaño Group, which endeavors to bring brands and audiences together in creative ways.
One of their first projects disrupted the way nonprofits communicate with donors. Audiences of the “See the Girl” project digitally wiped away a black screen to reveal smiling faces of girls, empowering and encouraging the viewer to do things within their power to connect and support the mission of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.
Their second major installation was in partnership with Brunet-García; a holiday promotion for Feeding Northeast Florida called “100 Plates.” Still being recognized nationally in the advertising world, the project allowed users to interact with a fictional food-insecure child living in a food desert in North Jacksonville. An interactive wooden board projected animation and told the story of his daily existence, taking users through an interactive experience that helped them understand food insecurity in the area. At the end, a kiosk asked for the community’s support. The project raised a significant sum for Feeding Northeast Florida.
Over the past year, the agency has grown; its client list now includes national entities, including a children’s museum in Baltimore, for which they are creating an interactive exhibition.
“People want to have a meaningful experience, whether they’re in a museum, at a concert, or even interacting with a piece of advertising,” says Volta. “Our work attempts to blur the lines between art and advertising, using technological means to do so. I imagine Castaño Group as the intersection between those boundaries, bringing audiences together that never imagined themselves crossing barriers to connect.”
This weekend, Castaño Group continues pursuing its mission of bringing communities together with the #Brighter2gether project; a 10-story interactive digital projection in the heart of 5 Points. They are asking for public participation; participants, working in pairs, will use interactive technology to create massive light projections on the façade of the Riverside Presbyterian Apartments building, creating a holiday-themed light show that will make a dynamic visual impact on the cityscape over the course of the weekend. At a time when politics, race and religion continue to divide, #Brighter2gether aims to show that we’re stronger and more creative at tackling big problems when we work together.