Arbus Magazine March/April : Page 27

BY MADELEINE PECK WAGNER t h e e n d l e s s h o p e f u l n e s s o f CO-OP GALLERIES IN THE CITY do they toil endlessly to express their vision and perfect their art, they also often band together – with great faith and hope – to launch new endeavors. Consequently, with the new Downtown Vision initiative, Off the Grid, a project that pairs artists (or artist groups) with available retail spaces, there has been an explosion in gallery and art spaces operating in Jacksonville’s urban core. Many of the spaces are the natural outgrowth of longstanding friendships and collaborations turned into co-op spaces. W 24 march/april 2010 • arbus magazine In addition to sharing the costs, the risk has (for many artists) the added benefit of camaraderie. Garry McElwee—who has long been recognized for his technical skill as an art printer and commercial photographer—has recently branched out into making his own fine art works. He credits his association with Southlight, a co-op gallery on Forsyth Street with encourag- ing his efforts. “I’m honored to be in this company,” he says of the group that includes many lauded local artists. Southlight is a loose organization with a history that goes back twenty plus years in Jacksonville. “The link,” explains architect Michael Dunlap, “was Greenleaf Gallery having a Southlight reunion show. There were lots of us in the mid- eighties—before we all married and divorced each other. Basically we [Southlight] were photographers and would invite painters…now we’re a more mixed group.” Dunlap has spearheaded this regeneration of the old group through the Greenleaf Gallery space, which he was also instrumental in creating. Though an architect by training, Dunlap has spent years photographically documenting the world around him. He has never lost his enthusiasm for making artwork, and being involved in a creative community. After Greenleaf lost their lease because Visit Jax moved into the space, Dunlap wanted to keep the gallery going, so he reached out to the manager of the 100 North Laura Street building and they came to an agreement. Now, they’ve got four-thousand square feet to use. “We’re not a mechanism in full swing, but we are getting there…we’re a collaboration, we’re all trying to help each other with our distinct skills,” he says. Next, Dunlap, with help from intern Judith Gammons, a painting and drawing major at UNF, Geri Bernard, a UNF graphics grad, and Pam Zambetti (a marketing specialist), hopes to start a once-a-week Gallery Walk in concert with other Downtown art spaces that coincides with the busiest hours of the urban core. “One of the evolutions as we readjust to the [new] economy in America is that we don’t need to keep creating rings of a r t hen you think about it, artists are endlessly hopeful people. Not only

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