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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 23, 200112:00 PM EST

SPAR has a busy agenda

by: Monica Chamness

by Monica Chamness

Staff writer

As a new year approaches, Springfield Preservation and Restoration has a full agenda, including the Trash Busters program, an 88-yard long mural, a new museum and the continuation of several programs it started this year.

Thanks to a $15,000 grant from Neighborhoods Matching Grants, SPAR has funded Trash Busters, a program to get neighborhood children involved in cleaning up their neighborhood.

“Trash Busters is starting in Springfield, but hopefully can leap forward to other neighborhoods that have blight to help clean up the neighborhood,” said Ryan Rummel, a participant in the project and co-owner of the Czigan & Rummel Gallery, which recently moved to Springfield. Rummel is also putting together an activity/comic book, which will be distributed to Springfield children to get them interested in the program.

Other facets of Trash Busters include field trips and a mural 88 yards long, which will include creative input from established artists and Springfield children.

“The big issue is that a lot of these kids are living in squalor,” said Rita Reagan, a Springfield resident and at-large director of SPAR. “This is not a thing to get them out on the streets and pick up trash. This is to change attitudes about how visual blight affects our lives and affects the increase in crime. We are trying to show how they can take charge of their lives.”

January will mark the first official invitation for area children to join the project. A public service announcement is being produced with the help of Laurence Walden, a visual and performing artist, and the children of Springfield.

Premier Foods at 7th and Main streets will be the site of the mural. Walden will guide the six-month project, dividing it into 20 different six-by-eight panels. The removable panels will be painted on the back of the building and reflect themes of music, history, dance, patriotism, family, education, history, sports and art deco. Several artists are being recruited to participate.

“If this goes over well it will be one of the biggest art projects in the entire city,” said Rummel.

Cleaning the streets isn’t the only item on SPAR’s agenda. Thanks to additional $15,000 in grant money from the Jacksonville Community Foundation, the organization is putting together a museum of local interest.

Encompassing 700 square feet on the ground floor of the SPAR headquarters off Main Street, the Springfield Heritage Museum aims to reflect the history of not only Springfield, but all of Jacksonville. Because of limited space, exhibits representing events from Springfield’s early days to the present will be rotated quarterly.

Shadow boxes encapsulating the four main time frames in Jacksonville’s chronology will be on permanent display in the windows with detailed displays inside.

“There’s so much interesting history from the late 1800s to the Great Fire of 1901, the roaring 1920s, the LaVilla era with the jazz bands and the Ritz Theatre, all the way up to when Springfield became a blighted area,” said Pam Dampier, arts committee chair for SPAR.

A transplanted beach dweller, Dampier claims the former home of the prominent Wolfson family as her current residence. Her involvement in the program extends from a desire to better her surroundings.

“Now we [the Springfield community] are in a big resurgence, which has been going on for at least 15 years,” she said. “These kind of things [revitalization] take time for the city to become interested in.”

Events such as performances staged simultaneously with the ongoing exhibits are being considered. Admission will be free and open to the public.

SPAR hopes to open the museum in January or February.

“We will have people here in a character portrayal to talk to people as they’re looking at that particular era, and maybe do skits regarding things that happened of significance,” said Dampier.

Running out of subject matter is not a concern for Dampier.

“There’s such a rich history in Jacksonville for this that we feel we’ll be able to do this for quite some time,” she said.

Standard museum fare such as photographs and artifacts, most of which were obtained through donations, will be presented along with written materials explaining the exhibit. Although not yet finalized, Dampier expects the initial exhibit to showcase the earlier years of Jacksonville history.

Depending on the success of the museum, the organization may expand to larger quarters in the future.

“If it takes off and people are interested in it, especially as the revitalization matures, then I feel there will be room for us to move to a larger area on Main Street,” said Dampier.

Cooperation between SPAR and other art-friendly venues such as Theatre Jacksonville are in the works, too. Regardless, Dampier plans to seek out additional funds for their endeavors.

Trash Busters and the museum are just two of the initiatives to promote Springfield. SPAR has hosted a number of events, including Movies on Main Street, Spoken Word Night, Supperclub Series and a Halloween ghost dance.

Most popular was the Movies on Main Street, a showing of classic and cult films on Friday evening, which was run by Subterranean Cinema. Another series of movies, coupled with another Supperclub Series, is planned for the spring.

Spoken Word Night, featuring poetry and prose at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, did not enjoy phenomenal attendance, but that’s not detouring Dampier.

“The fact that people did come is neat because this is Springfield. Look around. Ten years ago you’d have to force somebody to come here,” she said. “We feel if we continue to offer things and get the word out and prove to people what a fabulous place this area is, we can have a formidable art area for the people of Jacksonville. We hope that maybe through art and museums and all we can draw everybody’s attention to make sure this area is preserved.”

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