by Caroline Gabsewics
In a matter of hours an office was transformed into an art gallery at 209 Laura St.
As of last Wednesday, the space occupied by Legal Art Works just two days earlier is now Laura Street Gallery. Legal Art Works recently moved its offices from 209 Laura St. to Bay Street inside the building that also houses Daniel James Salon.
Three local artists came together to make Laura Street Gallery possible. Artists Jeff Davis, Joanelle Mulrain and Rhyan Taylor all met each other in a round about way. But in a matter of two weeks, the three of them got to know each other as well as they could and collaborated to open Laura Street Gallery in time for this month’s Art Walk.
In late March, Mulrain, who works for the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute, went into Legal Art Works — which was preparing something for the JOI — when they were still at their Laura Street location.
“I saw the space and I thought it was too cool. I would have given anything to have this space,” she said. “Then Jeff (Davis, owner of Legal Art Works) told me they were leaving the space in two weeks.
“Now when something comes your way, seize it or don’t whine.”
Davis moved his business to Bay Street last week, but he still had five months left on his previous lease. Davis said he really wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it for five months, but opening it as an art gallery was something that he kept in the back of his mind.
“It just started out as chit-chat and she (Mulrain) thought it was such a great space,” said Davis. “She was thinking about partnering with some artists to open a gallery and I was thinking of different solutions and tinkering with the idea to do something like that (for the remainder of the lease).”
The small talk turned into reality fairly quickly. Taylor is also working with Mulrain on another project. A new sign on the front window, lighting, and decorations were all in place just in time for Art Walk last Wednesday. Some of the art work was hung just minutes before Art Walk began, but nonetheless, it all came together.
“We have the perfect window to test this out,” said Davis. “It seems like the perfect place and it is a great time to see if it works and if Jacksonville will support us.”
The artists are going to use the next five months to gauge the success of Laura Street Gallery. If the gallery is well-received, they will renew the lease to keep the gallery going.
Davis said it was interesting to see the space converted from his business to an art gallery in just a few days, with much of the work taking place the last few hours.
“Rhyan was still finishing up work in here Tuesday (April 3) night,” said Davis. “It was such a fast turn-around and everyone who came to the gallery kept saying that.
“It was amazing for us to have it all cleaned up with the paintings on the wall in time for Art Walk.”
Davis does mixed media art — a fusion of photography with pastels. Davis takes photos and either adds effects to the photos digitally or he does some effects by hand.
Mulrain has some background in opening galleries. She and a friend opened an art gallery in Washington, D.C. a few years ago. Along with her daytime job with JOI, she paints in her spare time. Mulrain uses acrylics on canvas and she is best known for her paintings of Florida cattails and Great Blue Herons.
Taylor, a Jacksonville native, is a graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He also uses acrylics on canvas to create impressionistic landscapes. He also has a background in film and digital media and is planning to enter a short film titled “The Bottom” in the Jacksonville Film Festival this year or next year. All three of them use photos that they take to create their art work.
“If all goes well these next five months we will keep it afloat,” said Taylor. “We are hoping it becomes a real synergistic place. We want it to become alive.”
Mulrain said when she returned to Jacksonville after living in Washington, D.C., she saw a big difference in the Downtown area. The one thing Mulrain became very interested in was Art Walk.
“People are actually Downtown during Art Walk. It is becoming a destination again,” she said. “The landscape is changing and the synergy is remarkable.”
Mulrain explained that there are a lot of new venues and the idea of making art a part of entertainment is working.
“We are all here and people just need to support it, participate and invest in it. I think Downtown is on the cusp of greatness,” said Mulrain. “It is so exciting to see, but we have a way to go.”
The Laura Street Gallery will be open by appointment and during Art Walk. The artists are also planning on hosting special events at the gallery. For more information visit their Web site, www.laurastreetgallery.com.
“The door is open and we’ll see where it goes,” said Taylor.
Davis is already looking forward to May’s Art Walk.
“We have a full month to prepare now. It is going to be really exciting,” he said. “All in all, we had a great turnout (at Art Walk). There were a lot of well-known people walking around.”
As 5 o’clock drew near last Wednesday night, the artists were furiously working to get everything in place.
“I feel like I am back in D.C.,” said Mulrain.