Real estate broker Margie Seaman understands that real estate — particularly Downtown commercial real estate — goes through cycles.
The president of Seaman Realty and Management Co. is working to create a cycle of her own — not about office space, but about grassroots marketing of fine art in the urban setting.
Seaman has established the Building Art Program that will allow local artists to have gallery space in sites she has listed for lease or sale.
“It’s an effort to help everyone. Artists need places to show their work and it helps me when more people see a building,” she said.
The artists won’t pay rent, but will cover the cost of utilities. They will have to vacate the space within 30 days when a paying tenant or buyer signs a contract.
A similar program was conducted from 2009-11 by Downtown Vision Inc. and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.
Titled “Off the Grid,” it began slowly but eventually grew to 16 galleries.
Some were in small storefronts, some were in Class-A office towers and four were set up at the Jacksonville Landing.
Seaman said she’s going to start by offering artists space in her listings, but any broker who is representing Downtown commercial property can participate.
The first site will be at the New York Steam Laundry Building at 120 E. Forsyth St, near the Florida Theatre.
The first artist is Matthew Bennett, a painter and photographer who also participated in Off the Grid.
He sees the new program as an opportunity to revive the Downtown gallery scene and expand the day-to-day presence of visual art.
“As much as Downtown has been pushing the arts, Art Walk has become focused on Hemming Park,” Bennett said. “We are not going to be just an Art Walk venue.”
Being within steps of the Florida Theatre will give the gallery quite a bit of exposure and likely will lead to it being open in the evening.
“I think it’s the perfect place,” said Bennett.
He’s inviting a few other artists to join him and show their work in the space. The gallery will be open, Bennett said, by Oct. 14, the first day of Jax Innovation Week.
“I think the Building Art Program can be an equalizer. More people will see the artists and the buildings,” said Seaman. “We’re going to start with one gallery and see how it goes.”