By Martie Thompson

Mandarin artist Julie Fetzer is probably best known for her work Bridges of Jacksonville. She said the idea for the piece just came to her: “Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way and draw — it’s amazing what will come out.” Born and raised in California, Julie started college as a music major before realizing that wasn’t a good fit. She moved on to architecture and spent 15 year working in landscape architecture. She met and married her husband, Dirk Fetzer, and in time the couple moved to Oregon and had a daughter, Michelle. A lack of enjoyment of the winter weather there led the family to relocate to Jacksonville, specifically Mandarin, when CSX recruited Dirk to work in its technology division. At that time, Julie became a stay at home mom to young Michelle. In time, a neighbor introduced her to the Riverside Arts Market, and Julie, who said she has drawn and painted since a young age, started showing her artwork — including the Bridges of Jacksonville, maps, and wayfarer signs — there. In short order, her husband passed away and a few months later the global COVID pandemic hit; Julie calls those pivotal events in her life “gamechangers.” She is still processing the events and reinventing herself, and credits a phenomenal support system of friends, both old and new, along with adult daughter Michelle, a beautician who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach. Julie has three pets that keep her busy: Ginger the Wonder Dog and two cats, Calypso the Terrible and Clover the Sweet.

Q: What do you like most about living in Mandarin?
A: The location is fabulous. We initially moved here for the schools, but moving from an urban area to a half-acre lot at the end of a half-mile street is wonderful. I love having my own space. We call it “Fetzer Farms” and this is the longest in my life that I’ve lived in any one place. 

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Q: What inspired you to be an artist?
A: When I was five years old, I was in a serious car accident. I spent a lot of time in the hospital and in a wheelchair and this is when I developed my love of reading and drawing. My mother was also very creative. So, I’ve pretty much always drawn and painted.

Q: What inspired your work, the Bridges of Jacksonville?

A: Well, you can’t get around Jacksonville without going over the bridges! I also liked that each one looks different and is unique to draw.

Q: How did you reconnect with your art career post-COVID?

A: It was difficult. I had a lot of inventory when the pandemic hit, because I was gearing up for shows at RAM and the upcoming Mandarin Art Festival. Finally at one point, a prior customer of mine contacted me and asked if he could buy some artwork. I started opening up my garage as a little store (I call it my Studio Annex) on the first Sunday of every month. I advertised it on social media and of course word of mouth. I haven’t returned to doing shows, but my artwork is available in the Historic Post Office and it’s been in the gift shop of the Mandarin Museum for years. 

Q: What are your future plans?
A: I’m reinventing myself at this point. I’m doing a few commissions and doing some selected events, like the upcoming Winter Celebration at the Mandarin Museum where I’ll be a plein air artist. It’s so out of my comfort zone, but that’s why I wanted to do it. I’m planning on getting more involved with the Mandarin Museum as well.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I have an extensive portfolio and in the past, I’ve not always been the most organized person! So I’m taking some time now to get organized and catalog my items. I’m getting a better handle on my portfolio and am considering things like what can I make into prints? I’m also working on ideas for new maps and improving my social media presence. I also have a line of holiday cards that I’ve produced annually for ongoing clients, whom I call “collectors.”

Photo courtesy Julie Fetzer
Julie Fetzer

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