Visitors to downtown Gainesville last weekend got their first glimpse of what might become a common sight – professionally painted murals on the exterior walls of buildings.
An Italian muralist known as 2501 brought his vision to a building on the southwest corner of West University Avenue and SW Second Street. The works of 2501, whose given name is Jacopo Ceccarelli, are found in major cities around the world, including London, Paris, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami.
Project coordinator Raquel Vallejo said this is a preview of a much wider urban art project called 352Walls, involving more muralists and starting in November. She wouldn’t elaborate too much now, but she said, “He’s representing what we’re going to be doing later on this year.”
Vallejo is coordinating the project for the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. It is sponsored by VisitGainesville, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency and Nautilus Realty, and is being overseen by the Gainesville-Alachua County Art in Public Places Trust.
“We’ve all gotten together to bring art to the area, and this will have an impact on quality of life, rejuvenating our city,” she said. “There is nothing of this scope downtown now,” she added.
The muralist chose this building from photographs taken by curator Iryna Kanishcheva, who has photographed urban murals around the world and recruited the artist to bring his talent to Gainesville.
“This particular building is a challenge and he chose it for that reason,” Vallejo said. “It wraps around the corner and has all kinds of obstacles, panels, metal stairs, the entrance.”
The building, with an address of 201 W. University Ave., is managed by Nautilus Realty and houses the :08 Seconds bar.
“It’s really an organic process. He has no drawings, no sketches, nothing,” Vallejo said. “He’ll just get here, look at the building and just get going. And once he gets going, he doesn’t stop until he finishes.”
A news release from the city described the muralist’s work as “visually stunning, diving head first into the essence of line art through his use of monochromatic color schemes that emphasize his technique. This manipulation of lines, placed against a plain background, delivers a hypnotizing effect to all his works of art. Additionally, the skillful control of line use that is present throughout his work ultimately softens the piece instead of conveying a harshness that could be initially anticipated. Sharp and elegant, the end product of his artistry is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”
“The artist is being paid $2,000 as an honorarium, but the value of the project is much higher, and the process will serve as an incubator of sorts for the groups as they pursue the later work,” she said.
University of Florida art professor Richard Heipp, an expert in public art, said the mural will add to the cultural quality of life in the city. Local development and tourism agencies always tout the amount of culture we have for a city of this size, he said, and the murals will add to that.
“The longer term project is bringing a whole coterie of internationally known muralists all over town,” Heipp said. “There are potential cultural tourism dollars with people coming to see them.”
Unlike murals that might reflect local history, modern art murals can be provocative.
“The art asks the viewer to interpret, to make decisions, to think about what’s going on. It’s not
simply beautification, it’s also education.”
“Any time you have art that is somewhat unconventional it brings up questions,” Heipp said. “The art asks the viewer to interpret, to make decisions, to think about what’s going on it. It’s not simply beautification, it’s also education.”
The process of painting the mural will be documented and the video will be shown at this year’s Art Basel International Art Fair in Miami in December.
Some of 2501’s art can be viewed on his website at www.2501.org.uk, and his video projects can be viewed at www.nomadicexperiment.com.
Ron Wayne is a communicator working with startups in the Gainesville region.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org