Before the television news had its first fragmentary reports of Wednesday night’s gunshots fired at Jacksonville’s ArtWalk, social media was lit with Tweets about the subject.
The fascinating thing about the Tweets and Facebook posts, in aggregate: they were first-person accounts of what was going down, in real time, without the framing provided by reporters or the JSO investigation.
More than a few of the Tweets expressed dismay about the future of ArtWalk.
Some folks said they won’t be attending ArtWalk any more. Others speculated that the monthly event might be cancelled altogether.
Still others pointed to changes in the composition of those attending the event.
More kids were in attendance – a function of school being out through yesterday. And yes, the two gunshot victims were teenagers.
As one downtown employee told us, “it was a weird crowd.”
And the weird crowd brought an unprecedented event, that those familiar with ArtWalk on a monthly basis don’t expect to repeat.
As Jeni O’Donnell, the manager of bookstore/café Chamblin’s Uptown, told us, last night’s gunplay was an anomaly – “the first incident in 9 years and 108 ArtWalks” during the time the downtown landmark has been open.
“One in 108 had something happen,” O’Donnell said, attributing the shots to “punk ass kids.”
O’Donnell also offered words of support for Downtown Vision, which runs the ArtWalk events.
“Downtown Vision is doing a bang up job,” O’Donnell said.
Another Chamblin’s employee described her vantage point of the aftermath of the shots fired Wednesday evening, describing “100 people running down the street,” a mass of panic not unlike that one might see in a Godzilla movie.
“Scared kids … in a crowded place,” ran the description.
Everyone we talked to agreed that the shooting was an anomaly – and that it shouldn’t affect future ArtWalk events.
Downtown Vision, meanwhile, offered a statement Wednesday morning.
“We at Downtown Vision are deeply troubled by the shooting that occurred after last night’s Art Walk. We thank Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for its immediate and expert response to this unfortunate incident. Every month, we work closely with JSO on Art Walk, and they implement a number of detailed measures to keep everyone safe at the event.
“We believe that for the past 13 years since its inception, Art Walk has become a well-loved tradition. It is important to our Downtown and to our community, representing the very best of Jacksonville. Every month, Art Walk continues to bring us together in a positive and meaningful way, while supporting our Downtown and its businesses.
“We will continue to work closely with JSO to ensure the ongoing safety of everyone at Art Walk, and look forward to continuing this great Downtown event supporting creativity, diversity and peaceful expression as we work to create and support a more vibrant Downtown Jacksonville.”
Meanwhile, the office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, via spokeswoman Marsha Oliver, noted that “ the mayor is strongly committed to public safety and will continue to engage with Sheriff Williams on his team’s efforts to protect citizens and property throughout the city.”
In short: despite the shooting at last night’s ArtWalk, there appears to be no momentum for cancelling or changing the monthly event, which has become pivotal to Jacksonville’s creative class.