Welcome to Gainesville
A Nighttime Walk of An Artists Playground
The sunny state of Florida, home to over 19 million residents, dozens of bustling cities, yet one true, unlikely hub for art: Gainesville.
This past Saturday night, I embarked upon a nighttime walk of the downtown area to feel a sense of inspiration. To me, downtown contains a special mix of genres and sights to see. From the occasional live DJ sets that occur on the patio of Flaco’s, crafts and clothes markets hosted by The How Bazar, and techno sets that occur at Signal, there are a wide range of venues that host creativity for the creative mind. Through this downtown walk, I used the context of my role as an artist (photographer and DJ) to guide me through this walk and the sites I encountered.
I began my walk from my house located in the neighborhood slightly north of downtown, commonly referred to as the Pleasant Street neighborhood. The neighborhood is filled with historic and quaint homes that line the streets. Pastel blues and pinks, elderly arches, and creaky, yet nostalgic porches define the collection of homes that border the bustling city life.
The first destination I came across was the backside of Flaco's Cuban Bakery and the mural that adorns its backside. As I approached the mural, the sounds of old school rap and aromas of pastries greeted me. The large-scale mural showed a variety of flexible and intertwined shapes that I couldn't decipher. Despite not being able to tell exactly what this artwork was, it inspired me to reflect on the fluidity of life and the way humans must be able to adapt to life's random moments. The building hosted another mural which depicted the phrase " La Medida del amor es El amor sin Medida" which translates to "The measure of love is love without measure". The phrase entices the viewer to understand that you should love the ones closest to you the hardest, no matter the circumstances. Beside loving those closest to you, I believe that it's vital that you love yourself the most. As an artist, it's easy to feel a bit of "imposter syndrome", but you should always believe in your craft, your ability, and your art.
After I left Flaco's Cuban Bakery, I walked down to The How Bazar and it's accompanying parking garage. The parking garage is FILLED with art, wall to wall and ceiling to ceiling. There were so many artist and styles within a single space that it became hard to focus on my surroundings! My favorite piece from he garage that I encountered was this text that read "CONVENIENCE LEADS TO MEDIOCRITY". Some things in life you have to chase towards and struggle to obtain. Dedicating yourself to art is a difficult road that many, like myself, wish to pursue for life, but there are many sacrifices that come along with this non-traditional lifestyle.
I walked down to the street toward the latest club that I DJ'ed at, Signal. Beside this venue is a mural of a silver Gator, an homage to the University of Florida. The technical skill behind this piece is beyond impressive and evoked a childlike playfulness within me when I saw it! While viewing this mural, there was coincidentally an artist rapping melodically in the parking lot facing the mural which you can hear in the video. The rapping was quite fitting for this project as this artist made their own venue to share their artistry, something that I would also like to do. Gainesville is a city that is full of underappreciated talent that I hope to help uplift.
I walked east towards another mural which depicted Bo Diddley, an artist that has been dubbed an architect of rock music in the 50s. The mural demonstrates the power of Black creatives and the movement that our artistry can make. As a Black artist myself, I felt inspired by Bo Diddley and the work he has done for music. There is a plaza in downtown that is named after him due to his greatness! Although Bo Diddley has already passed, his daughter (who I have met at a local event) and close relative still live in the area and continue his legacy to this day. While our life on Earth may be temporary, we can still live on through the art we create and leave behind.
I finally headed north towards The Top (which is a restaurant I work at). In the front of the restaurant, we have art installations that are put up by varying local artists. The piece we have installed now was actually created by my manager, Callie. The piece contains multiple rows of clown figures and targets hanging from above, resembling a common game found at fairs. I walked past this installation towards the side of the restaurant which hosts a piece by Francisco Diaz. The piece is of pastel flowers arranged in a beautiful manner which inspire the viewer to find beauty in every wall or crevice they can.
Thank you so much for coming on this walk with me. Now the next time you visit downtown, you're able to see the abundance of creativity that the city hosts. Cheers!