Yesterday, NBC2's Chad Oliver was in Centennial Park with a cameraman to lens a story on Centennial Park's Fire Dance in response to a viewer's question asking "what's with that bright red sculpture in downtown Fort Myers?" To get answers for his viewer about the city-owned public artwork, Oliver elicited the help of Fort Myers Public Art Committee Chairwoman Ava Roeder and public art advocate and True Tours' public art guide Tom Hall.
A reporter in the special projects division of NBC2, Oliver launched the Good Question franchise earlier this year. In the two-minute segments, Chad goes straight to the source in order to track down answers on a variety of topics. Among the dozens of topic Oliver has tackled so far are questions about Lake Okeechobee water releases into the Caloosahatchee, what Good Will does with the revenues from its stores, can deadly brain-eating amoeba spread through water sprinklers, and what are those blue lights attached to some area traffic signals.
Since joining Waterman Broadcasting in 2004, Chad has worked in a variety of roles as a reporter and anchor on both NBC2 and ABC7. He reported from the Kennedy Space Center for NASA's return to flight following the Columbia disaster. Chad showed how the community recovered from Hurricane Charley, and then a year later he broadcast through the eye of Hurricane Wilma as it slammed into Marco Island. His interviews have included everyone from regular citizens to celebrities and power players in Washington.
In 2009, Chad won an Emmy Award from the Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. His series of "One Tank Trips" took viewers to unique destinations around the state of Florida. And he recently won an Edward R. Murrow award for his series, "Made in Southwest Florida."
Regarding Fire Dance, Chad's viewer is curious to know where the money came to acquire the Dupont red proto-architectural sculpture, how the 25' tall piece was delivered and assembled, and why the city has a public art program in the first place. But you will have to wait a several weeks to get Chad's take on the topic. The Fire Dance segment won't air until some time in November.
Until then, folks interested in learning more about Fire Dance or any of the other 44 public artworks interspersed throughout Fort Myers' city limits have several options. Fort Myers entire public art collection is registered on both culureNOW and the Public Art Archive, two online compendiums of public art collections located throughout the United States. MyRiverDistrict.com provides information about the public artworks located in the downtown Fort Myers River District. Art Southwest Florida includes profiles on all of Fort Myers' public artworks, as well as Cape Coral, Greater Fort Myers, the Southwest Floirda International Airport and Florida Gulf Coast University. Or you can take a guided tour of the River District's public art collection with arts advocate Tom Hall. (Please call 239-945-0405 or visit www.TrueTours.net for times, prices and reservations.)
As Chad Oliver learned yesterday from Ava Roeder and Tom Hall, public art plays an important role in elevating a community's lifestyle and image to the outside world. A recent survey of nearly 43,000 people in 26 communities conducted by Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over a three year period beginning in 2008 discovered that more than schools, low crime rates and economic opportunity, public art is the factor that most inspires people to locate and remain in a community. The survey confirms what public art professionals have long known. Public art attracts cultural and heritage tourists, new residents and new businesses to communities with the vision and commitment to establish and maintain vibrant public art programs.