Jacksonville, Florida, is situated at the crux of highways I-95 and I-10. The north-south highway 95 hugs nearly 2,000 miles of the eastern coast and I-10 runs coast to coast across the southern corridor. The expanse of these two roads and their intersection in Jacksonville seem symbolic of the personal endurance that has led to the development of Long Road Projects. It seems fitting that Long Road Projects finds its home here. Just over a year ago, Long Road Projects (LRP) was established by husband and wife partners and co-founders Aaron Levi Garvey and Stevie Covart Garvey as an independent artist residency and edition publishing program. (Formerly assistant curator at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Aaron was also one of four curators of the 2016 Atlanta Biennial.) As a nonprofit organization, LRP engages in resourceful community and public presentations specific to the visiting artist’s practice by collaborating with local venues and organizations interested in creative partnerships. In conversation, Aaron and Stevie express that Long Road Projects is a personal endeavor that they hope creates opportunities for direct engagement, fosters experimentation, and encourages new conversations.
Thus far, artists Lala Abaddon, Gamaliel Rodriguez, Joshua Short, and Tameka Norris have developed work through Long Road Projects, producing editions, studio pieces, endurance performance, artist lectures, and even radio broadcasts. These efforts are all archived as part of the LRP collection. Aaron and Stevie are considering options for the eventual home of this collection. Since LRP is a nonprofit, it may become a public collection housed by a museum or artist-run space.
When discussing the curation of the artists selected, Stevie mentions their desire to represent diversity and balance through the artists invited, which is in line with their mission to provide alternative experiences that inform, educate, and share. When discussing the significance of this program taking root in Jacksonville, Aaron and Stevie are adamant that they see a need here. Both call Jacksonville home. Aaron has moved to and from Jacksonville several times, originally moving to Florida from New York for school, and Stevie was born here. They feel that, away from saturated cultural centers, there is great opportunity to have a tangible impact by addressing topical issues that are relevant in Jacksonville and, more broadly, in the South. Their hope is to cultivate cultural change with creativity, grace, and accessibility.
The couple is exploring an alternative business model that Stevie calls “a punk rock entity,” where each artist, project, and event helps determine their path. At this point, mutual partnerships and even modest financial contributions help build sustainability for LRP. Currently, Long Road Projects is nomadic, relying on a pioneer spirit to find and utilize spaces as needed. This means that LRP collaborators and the artists Aaron and Stevie bring to Jacksonville must be flexible and trusting, many times relying on a handshake to seal the deal. Logistically, though, they are seeking a dedicated permanent space that can promote visibility and help establish their long-term goals. With a trusted board, they are searching for new financial partnerships and grants.
The main financial load is currently carried by Aaron and Stevie, but they are realistic and practical. They support running programming that is primarily experiential by leveraging the commodification of the art product, which for LRP exists in the form of artist editions. Their mutual love of collecting led them to establish this aspect of the residency. They have primarily partnered resident artists with local printer George Cornwell to produce the editions, though they are exploring ways to realize object editions. The most recent resident Joshua Short, for example, will be producing a mixed tape with printed sleeves documenting his traveling pirate radio station Bomb Shelter Radio: Lucille Valentine (in cooperation with the Joan Mitchell Center and Foundation).
The couple realizes that many of the curatorial decisions they make are shaping Long Road Projects. After a successful year of programming, they are looking forward to a little bit of downtime as they plan a new roster of invited artists and projects. They also have a pending proposal for Armory Week in New York, where they plan to show Florida artists. Aaron mentions that this is the balance they seek: to import artists and ideas to their local community, and export local and regional artists through curatorial projects.
Jacksonville has two established museums, a collection of galleries, several universities with institutional programming, and many individual artist studios and makers, but Long Road Projects is promoting an alternative model for creative engagement that is rooted in connecting visiting artists with the community of Northeast Florida.
Lily Kuonen is an assistant professor of art at Jacksonville University in Florida. She is a native of Arkansas, where she was born in the kitchen of her parents’ house.