Mural

A mural in the 352Walls Project decorates the north wall of The Top, facing Northwest First Avenue, on Dec. 3, 2015.

Aaron Albright / Alligator Staff

Downtown Gainesville just got more colorful.

With the conclusion of the first phase of 352walls, a project designed to bring art to downtown Gainesville through murals, a new group of artists are expected to arrive beginning in January to add more artwork.

"We see it as an ongoing project," said Russell Etling, the cultural affairs manager for City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. He said the project is a 10-year master plan for the development of arts and culture in Gainesville and Alachua County.

The project, also known as The Gainesville Urban Art Initiative, began bringing artists from all over the world to Gainesville at the end of October for the first phase of artwork.

"I think the 352walls are a significant example of a cultural renaissance that is happening in our community," Etling said.

The cost of the first phase of the project was about $125,000, Etling said, which was largely funded by tourist development funds. The artists were not given a theme, but they were selected for the project based on their past work. The second round of artists will go through the same process.

The project began with Iryna Kanishcheva, the project curator, who proposed the idea after photographing and studying murals around the world.

She talked to building owners in downtown and then approached Visit Gainesville, Etling, 60, said.

John Pricher, the executive director of Visit Gainesville, said he liked the idea and began finding ways to fund it.

"Through our contract with the City of Gainesville to manage an arts program, there was surplus money for the first time, and we were able to use that money to help make this project happen," Pricher, 45, said.

Jesus Martinez, 38, the owner of Visionary CrossFit near downtown, helped paint the panels of the Make.Work building with other regional artists, including his wife, Carrie Wachter-Martinez, 40. They will paint again in January.

"I think Gainesville really needed the exposure," Martinez said. "There’s so many walls in Gainesville, and there’s no murals. I really think it was a positive thing that they did."