Bright Ideas: Local Inspirations and Gracious Models for ACE Tours Adaptive Cultural Experiences

Although a newly minted organization, ACE Tours owes a weighty and sincere nod of gratitude to the local supporters, influencers and inspirations who came before us, helped to blaze the trail, and engaged the community with their outside-the-box projects, heartfelt work and positive example.

ACE Tours’ co-founders, Mark Creegan and Chaz. Bäck, have spent the better part of a decade vision casting, conceptualizing and nurturing the possibilities of alternative and adaptive presentations that maximize public contact and engagement with art and culture. We’ve been fortunate to have some of the area’s talented communicators, organizers and facilitators as catalysts and exemplars.

Northeast Florida curator and artist activist Shawana Brooks is a literal force for arts and culture in the area. Her most recent project — curating and managing The Corner Gallery at The Jessie Ball Dupont Center — is just the latest (and most unlikely to be the last!) in a long line of her outstanding and energizing cultural contributions to Jacksonville.

Whether helping to Color Jax Blue or serving as the Arts and Culture Developer for the Jax Makerspace inside the Main Branch of the Jacksonville Library, Shawana’s ability to capture the public’s imagination and engage people in meaningful interactions looms large in Northeast Florida.

But perhaps her most widely lauded project, the 6 Ft. Away Gallery, served us as a very tangible example of reaching out to the public in new and experimental ways. The 6 Ft. Away Gallery knitted a community together while helping build up and serve the people and artists within it. With this initiative, she and co-founder Roosevelt Watson III proved that people can and will come together to experience a highly accessible art experience, and that the benefit to strengthening the community is tangible.

Our humble and gracious thanks to Shawana for being one of ACE Tours’ inspiring lights.

In 2015, Yellow House‘s Hope McMath, then the director of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, and Dolf James, co-founder of CoRK Arts District, led the charge of Jacksonville Outings, the local cohort of French artist Julien de Casabianca‘s Outings Project. The effect on the city was palpable.

Powered by works in the Cummer’s collection, the Outings Project allowed for large to massive reproductions of the museum’s paintings to be installed in a myriad of local urban settings, documented via photo and video, and networked with other sister groups working across the globe. This democratic implementation and non-traditional presentation created unexpected and impactful interactions with old masters’ works, maximizing engagement and impact.

We’re happy to tip our hats and offer our thanks to Hope, Dolf, and to all those who were involved with and participated in the Jax Outings Project.

Professor Dustin Harewood of FSCJ Kent Campus is no stranger to the minds of local arts enthusiasts. He’s been a spearhead for many highly regarded community arts projects, like The Black Beach project (with Malc Jax and Jordan Walter) at Cathedral Arts Project, multiple murals and public art works, and an abundance of gallery exhibitions.

But most notably in the context of this discussion, Dustin is a foundational block of the formation of ACE Tours’ “On the Fence” Open Air Pop-Up Gallery Experience. In the fall of 2020, longtime friends and tennis partners Dustin and ACE Tours’ co-founder Mark Creegan implemented “You Were There,” an experimental installation of their own work on the fences surrounding the Wiley Road Park tennis courts where they frequently met to play.

Harewood and Creegan’s “You Were There,” an ad hoc prototype of the series of the ACE Tours exhibitions, took only about an hour from installation to strike. And although it was only seen by the two artists and their documenting photographer, it provided a volley of inspiration, and served up a thrilling match point of logistics solutions for “On the Fence.”

Strong and heartfelt props to you, Harewood, for blazing the trail and helping ignite ACE Tours and our inaugural Adaptive Cultural Experience (ACE). We couldn’t have done it without you.

This project is made possible in part by funding from The JAX Arts Project, sponsored by the PNC Foundation in partnership with the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, with special thanks to the City of Jacksonville Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

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