“We won’t know until we know,” was a common refrain from cultural organizations, nonprofits, and galleries in late March as we assembled the calendar for this issue. May and June were too distant for planning, as the uncertain impacts of COVID-19 remained vastly unknown. From galas to author talks, gatherings large and small were canceled or postponed, creating a domino effect expected to affect artists, performers, and institutions well into May and June—and, potentially, beyond.
Despite the lack of formal events, art continues to surround us in the form of public installations. If the family has been feeling cooped up and bereft of cultural enrichment, venture out—with care to keep appropriate social distancing—to view these works that dot Southwest Florida. Have the kids bring along a camera or sketchbook so they can record their favorite piece and perhaps even jot down a few notes about how it makes them feel.
Florida Gulf Coast University
Raymond L. Lutgert, founder of The Lutgert Companies, was the visionary Naples developer behind Park Shore, the first planned-unit development in the state. Lutgert was also a community leader, philanthropist, and award-winning sculptor whose works are on display throughout the area, including at the Village Shops on Venetian Bay and the Northern Trust building. Over at Florida Gulf Coast University, Lutgert’s 24-foot-tall Human Race greets visitors near the campus entrance at the Lutgert College of Business.
FGCU, in fact, boasts numerous outdoor sculptures—12 total—that reflect their locations within the institution. Furthermore, the university consistently augments its collection through the Art in State Buildings program.
Highlights: Archway by Brower Hatcher, Beacons by Harry McDaniel, Cross Currents by Albert Paley, Depend du Soleil by Mark Fuller, and Dream to Connect by Mary Sullivan Voytek
The couple behind Hoffmann Family of Companies—a Naples real estate and business juggernaut—are art lovers. They’re sharing this love with the community through the donation of a dozen original works to Naples’ downtown area.
Jim Rennert, a New York City–based sculptor, created many of the downtown installations. Known for his life-size and monumental works, Rennert frequently plays with motifs associated with corporate success, such as men in suits. Others are by Ruth Bloch, an Israeli artist whose figural sculptures have been displayed around the world.
In addition to the Hoffmann donations, there are many more works that have graced the scene for a while, as well as several located within building interiors.
Highlights: Dancing by the Light of the Moon and Dancer by Ruth Bloch, 900 Fifth Ave. S. (Wells Fargo Bank), Outlook by Jim Rennert, 898 Fifth Ave. S. (second floor of Sushi Thai Too), Finding Balance by Bob and Jo Wilfomg, 796 Fifth Ave. S. (Bank of America), Serenity by Ruth Bloch, 780 Fifth Ave. S. (Starbucks Fountain), Entrepreneur by Jim Rennert, 405 Fifth Ave. S. (PNC Bank), Comfortable Grace by Ruth Bloch, 375 Fifth Ave. S. (Marilyn’s Dress Shop), It Happens by Jim Rennert, 645 Fifth Ave. S. (Kristoff Jewelry)
Marco Island Historical Museum
Walk through time at the Marco Island Historical Museum. The building exterior features 20
faux windows, three faux doors, and a three-panel column with murals by regional artists that depict scenes from Marco Island’s rich history. These murals trace the subtropical island from ancient times to the Calusa period, continuing into later settlement as a pioneer fishing village, pineapple plantation, and clam cannery, before finishing with its explosive growth and development in the 1960s. The permanent outdoor gallery, known as Windows and Doors to History, was commissioned during the museum’s construction.
The historic Fort Myers downtown district has an array of public art capturing the various people and groups who played critical roles in the town’s history.
Outside the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, art explorers can view The Caloosahatchee Manuscripts, created in 2001 by artist Jim Sanborn (who is also responsible for the Kryptos sculpture at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia). It comprises two brass cylinders, lit from the inside, with writing that is cast onto the building and sidewalk. The cylinder on the left (when facing the building) is a list of the Latin names for the various plants Thomas Edison collected in the area during his search for a carbon-based source of light-bulb filament. The other contains the story of the Seminole migration to the region in their native language.
Over at Centennial Park, Uncommon Friends depicts Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone as they exchange ideas while relaxing by a campfire. Made by local artist D.J. Wilkins, the cold-cast aluminum sculpture features native plants and animals as well as a 40-foot-diameter fountain. It acts as the centerpiece of the 10-acre park and pays homage to a book of the same name detailing the inventors’ friendship, collaborations, and camping trips.