Local couple creates outdoor art gallery to raise awareness during pandemic

Florida — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said museums can open at 50% capacity, if their local governments allow them to, after being closed for weeks due to COVID-19.

Action News Jax anchor Tenikka Smith talked to a local couple who recently opened a gallery in the Fairfax neighborhood with safety in mind.

The “6 Ft. Away Gallery” is located in the backyard of its creators - Jacksonville couple and artists Roosevelt Watson III and Shawana Brooks.

When asked about the name, Watson said, “We tried to figure out how to make it work and fit with the climate that we are in.”

Now on display outside of their home off West 15th Street, several pieces from Watson’s “Way Maker Series” honoring the local and national contributions of lesser known African-Americans.

Watson said, “I was also coming up to being with Ritz Chamber Players on exhibition in May, but coronavirus came and shut that down and I still had that fire to be out and talk to people because that’s what the art does it causes conversations.”

Several folks from the neighborhood haven driven, biked of walked up to the outdoor gallery. The couple says they even had a family visit from St. Johns County.

An encouraging sign for an industry that’s taken a major hit. The US Census Bureau found 75% of Arts and Recreation businesses reported seeing a "large negative effect from COVID-19." Nearly 20,000 people in the same industries have filed for unemployment in Florida. The couple says artists need your support now more than ever.

Brooks said, “They are not just artists fra la la and and frolicking. They are business people. They are small businesses and for any community to thrive you’ve got to pay into your small businesses and artists are no different from that.”

The couple is now working to help bring more pop-up galleries to neighborhoods across our area. You can more information about the “6 Ft. Away Gallery here.