Gainesville Adopts Plan to Form Arts Council, Improve Website

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For Jesus Martinez, being plugged into the Gainesville art community is not only how he expresses himself, but also how he wants others to experience his CrossFit gym.

Martinez is owner of Visionary CrossFit, a combination of a CrossFit gym and a visionary art gallery that displays what he describes as trippy and psychedelic art.

It’s often overlooked and not as common as other forms of art in Gainesville, which is why he wanted to be part of the 352ArtsRoadmap Cultural Plan, he said.

The plan, adopted Thursday by the City of Gainesville for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, will hopefully give Martinez and other local artists more opportunities to work together and participate in the city’s art scene.

The plan aims to promote Gainesville’s arts community and enhance its cultural programs and facilities.

The department will create a 352 Arts and Cultural Council of art and community leaders to help implement the plan. It will also continue developing a website to serve as a central arts calendar and directory.

After a yearlong process of input through focus groups, community dialogue and an online survey, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department was able to build a new 10-year cultural plan, said Russell Etling, cultural affairs manager for the department.

Etling said Gainesville and Alachua County have a host of world-class institutions like the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Natural History, in addition to well-known artists and musicians.

Input from 3,197 stakeholders pointed toward a lack of coordination between those local artists, musicians and institutions.

“The community was looking for a facilitator to bring the arts world together, to help it communicate with each other and with other sectors of the community and then to promote it more,” Etling said. “A strong arts community attracts new business to the community. It attracts more visitors, encourages business to relocate here, and, above all things, it improves our quality of life.”

Money to implement the plan came from the State of Florida, Division of Cultural Affairs; Visit Gainesville; the University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning; and Mataraza Consulting, according to Etling.

Linda Blondheim is another artist who will be part of the directory. A landscape painter in Gainesville since the 1970s, she has noticed a lack of communication among artists and common goals in the community.

“Even some smaller cities have good art centers and better accommodations for the art community, so I certainly think we need something county-wide,” Blondheim said.

About Maria Valencia

Maria is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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