The City of Fort Myers Public Art Committee met in special session on December 10 to start the process of reviewing the 67 applications it received from artists seeking the privilege of designing, fabricating and installing a new public artwork in Clemente Park in the Dunbar community.
"Clemente Park is emerging as the cultural and recreational hub of the Dunbar community, featuring open spaces for events and recreational activities," the Committee noted in its call for artists interested in being considered for the project. "As a vital cultural resource, Clemente Park is also home to the Black History Museum and the historic Williams Academy Cultural Center, operated by the Lee County Black Historical Society." The park is located at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Henderson Avenue.
"I'm very pleased with the quality of the submissions," art consultant Barbara Anderson Hill to the Committee on Tuesday. "There is a lot of good work to choose from. At least half are definitely worthy of serious consideration, both for murals and sculpture."
Applicants provided a letter of interest, resume, and digital images of past work via CallforEntry.org™ (also known as CaFÉ™), a web-based service that allows organizations and administrators to easily and cost-effectively manage artist-application and jury processes related to calls for entry and other events. The service is especially designed for use with public art projects, artist fellowships, juried visual-arts competitions, and many other types of calls for entry.
In advance of next Tuesday's regularly-scheduled monthly meeting, Committee members are busily studying reviewing the applicants' digital folders and evaluating which applicants are most likely to provide a mural, sculpture or other public artwork that portrays the Dunbar community in a compelling and inspirational way.
Installation of the new artwork comes at a time when Dunbar community leaders are striving to engender a sense of heritage and pride in younger and future generations which have been impeded in their appreciation of their past by the loss of so many of the community's cultural resources over the years. In October, community members toured Dunbar's remaining historical landmarks by trolley. At the same time, the City of Fort Myers, the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency, the Friends of the Dunbar Jupiter Hammon Library, the Lee County Black History Society and the Lee County Library System partnered to update the Historic Sites of Dunbar: A Self Guided Tour, which was first published in 1998. Renamed Dunbar Cultural Landmarks: A Fort Myers Community Self-Guided Tour, the new 16-page edition contains two new sites that have either come of age or been rediscovered.
At this stage, the Committee members are hoping to narrow the list of applications to 35 by eliminating applicants who do not receive a majority of "yes" or "maybe" votes. The Committee will ultimately choose three finalists who will be awarded a $500 design fee to develop a maquette/proposal for the Committee's final consideration. The Committee has not pre-determined whether the new artwork will be a mural, free-standing sculpture or something else, but it has established a $20,000 budget for the artwork, which includes materials, fabrication, installation, permitting, documentation and transportation.
Stakeholders in the Dunbar community have been invited to attend the Committee's December 17 meeting in order to provide their input.
The City of Fort Myers maintains an active public art program. To date, its public art collection is comprised of 25 sculptures as well as a Portable Works Collection consisting or more than two dozen paintings, prints and photographs. When combined with works commissioned by the federal government, Lee County and other sources, there are more than 45 public artworks within the city limits, with most being concentrated in a four-square-block area in the downtown Fort Myers River District. Information about these artworks can be found on cultureNOW.org, the Public Art Archive and Art Southwest Florida, or by taking one of the public art walking tours offered by True Tours in downtown Fort Myers. For reservations, please telephone 239-945-0405 or visit www.TrueTours.net.