The 352walls project was supposed to take at least a year to complete. It was finished in six months.
Laura NeSmith, chairwoman of the Gainesville-Alachua County Art in Public Places Trust, said she saw the speed of the project’s completion as an exceptional feat— but said it is also one of the many reasons the project fell short.
With the completion of phase one of the 352walls project, the Gainesville-Alachua County Art in Public Places Trust met Monday to discuss what could have been done differently and what can be done in the future.
“Creating specific safety and environmental guidelines for the artists are at the forefront of things that should have been done for the project,” said NeSmith. “We want to make a set of rules for next time.”
Each artist signed a safety contract that dealt with liability stating they would stay strapped into a harness while working on the lifts, NeSmith said, but many of them chose not to.
NeSmith said the international artists are used to working in a wide range of environments, so they were probably a little less concerned with safety knowing Gainesville is a more liable place.
One artist, whom NeSmith said she would not name, even poured paintbrush water into the sewer after finishing part of a mural. It is not acceptable to let the public see things like that happen, she said.
“It was a kind of fly by the seat of your pants situation because this is our first year experimenting with such a project,” NeSmith said. “But you have to understand these are some of the most famous neo-muralists in the world. We’re lucky we got them to come to Gainesville and show their work.”
Russell Etling, cultural affairs interim manager for the city of Gainesville, said developing a small set of rules that would debrief the artists and identify issues like waste disposal, highline preparation and awareness of the artists would be beneficial in the future.
Etling said it was a learning experience in terms of coordinating, and the board needs to identify gaps in order to progress.
He added the project would have been more successful with more volunteers.
“We feel like we did well, but we can always use more help for things that contribute to the overall success of the project,” Etling said. “Now that people are more aware of the initiative, we hope more of them will volunteer.”
The long term, multi-year project was made possible using $125,000 of funding, which mostly came from Visit Gainesville, surplus tourism dollars and the Gainesville-Alachua County Art in Public Places Trust.
Still, Etling said the 352walls project was missing a point person for the marketing and promotion.
Part of the learning curve that came with the shortcomings of the project was the lack of promotion, said John Pricher, executive director of Visit Gainesville.
“It needed more to be a bigger splash,” Pricher said. “But to get the project to even happen was a great feat. Hopefully it will happen again, and there will be promotion prior and during the project.”
With the help of Visit Gainesville and future artists, Etling said there will hopefully be a second, more successful year for the 352walls project. Regardless, he sees the murals providing a spiritual quality to Gainesville.
“We had no playbook, no proper means to meet the production needs,” Etling said. “But it’s always good to have a learning process so that we can improve the next time around.”