Fort Myers Iron Statues to Now Spread Art Across Town

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All but one of the 23 iron sculptures that have graced the cityscape of downtown Fort Myers for more than five years will soon be retired for other sites in the city.

The work of Colombian sculptor Edgardo Carmona, the work was placed in 2016 as part of an unsuccessful marketing campaign for a Miami developer’s plan to build two towers of luxury waterfront apartments on First Street.

Members of the city council approved the distribution of the sculptures throughout the city. Eight pieces will remain in Ward 4, which includes much of downtown River District.

Tom Hall, the City of Fort Myers public art consultant, said some council members had recommendations for placement of the artwork.

From earlier: Unveiling of the “iron giants”

Related: Public fascination with the statues of Camona

After:Popular Fort Myers statues leaving downtown, moving across town

From left to right, Ryland Fink and Wes Bruner take a closer look at one of artist Edgardo Carmona's large metal sculptures titled

“A handful of city council members have expressed a feeling that they would like to see some of the artwork moved to their neighborhoods so that their constituents can also enjoy it,” Hall said in a telephone interview.

The city bought the sculptures for $ 55,000 after Jaxie Construction pulled out of the 22-story Allure condominium project, and Carmona had to either find a buyer or pay to send two dozen heavy sculptures back to Colombia.

Many parts still have publicity material for Allure, five years after the manufacturer left town.

Reposition the statues

City council members from the city’s urban neighborhoods made recommendations to locate statues that would be of particular interest to their community.

Ward 1 Councilor Teresa Watkins Brown has requested that statues be placed in Roberto Clemente Park, near the offices of the Black History Society and the Black History Museum. She also requested that another iron statue be moved to the community park.

“Councilor Brown was adamant that she thought the best choice for Billy Bowlegs Community Park was ‘Al Galope’ or the horse,” Hall said. “Keep in mind that what we are trying to do is expose people who might not be included (in the art community) or otherwise inclined to view public art, such as park or theater goers, spectators or buyers, to the possibility. “

This area of ​​open land along MLK Boulevard next to McCollum Hall in downtown Fort Myers is seen as a possible space to display one of artist Edgardo Carmona's large metal sculptures that will be relocated from the area. of the river district.

At the Barden Street Urban Community Farm, statues showing tools from the food trade, along with a fruit vendor and knife sharpener, will be placed at opposite ends of a parking lot near a planned performing arts project .

Ward 3 Councilor Terolyn Watson insisted that a statue of a boy riding a bicycle would be the right choice for placement at the STARS complex, which serves the city’s youth.

Another piece will be installed at the IMAG History and Science Center where Hall said it will “be visually united” with McCollum Hall.

This area of ​​open land along MLK Boulevard next to the IMAG History and Science Center in downtown Fort Myers is considered a possible space to display one of artist Edgardo Carmona's large metal sculptures. which will be moved from the area of ​​the river district.

Of the statues that will remain in Ward 4, some will be in the River District and others will be used in arts centers or meeting places, such as a ribbon dancer that will be located at the Florida Repertory Theater.

City Councilor for Ward 4 Liston Bochette III has requested that a status of a man listening to a Victrola, created by a competitor of Thomas Edison, be located at Edison Ford Winter Estates.

One possibility still under discussion is to move a juggler status on a unicycle to the Collaboratory on Jackson Street, an area that may soon be occupied with construction activity for the Midtown Project’s first major new build.

The only statue that will remain in its current position is titled “Man and Dog Marking Their Territory” and shows a man and an animal relieving themselves on a lamppost.

A once controversial piece of art in downtown Fort Myers, sculptor Edgardo Carmona  "The man and the dog marking their territory," is the only part of his collection of 23 statues that is expected to remain in place when the city redistributes the works.  The exhibit turned out to be one of the favorite places in the city center to take selfies.

This is Carmona’s most controversial status in Fort Myers, but it has proven popular with some.

“Some people said it was obscene and should be taken down,” Hall said. “He’s a fan favorite for photo ops and selfies… We’re leaving it where we know they can find it.”

The Alliance for the Arts will be the location of three of the five works of art that will be located in Ward 5.

The three works currently being installed in district 6 will each be placed in the new Parc du Forum currently being developed in the Forum district.

Art in urban life

The popularity of the statues with many downtown visitors was the reason for the city’s decision to purchase them.

“The motivation of (City Manager Saeed) Kazemi and the former mayor (Randy Henderson) was the fact that many people who frequent downtown fell in love with the sculptures and wanted us to keep them and wanted to buy the sculptures.” , Hall said.

Not all the statues are on display. Many were moved to the city nursery during the construction of the Luminary Hotel and renovations to the former Harborside Events Center.

When the statues return to the Fort Myers landscape, a tour guide will be no further than the ubiquitous smartphone.

An app known as Otocast, which can be downloaded from app stores, will be able to determine a user’s location, recommend the closest artwork, and provide a commentary on each artwork.

“We will be adding each of the 23 Carmonas to Otocast,” Hall said. “This will let you know there are 22 more and show them like push pins on a map so you can identify where they are.

“Someone will give you a recording, 30 seconds to 10 minutes long, that will tell you all about this piece of art,” Hall said. “Ideally, we would like the artist to do the recording.

Although few communities in Florida seem to use Otocast, they have apps in 150 cities across the country with over 400 guides available.

The Fort Myers program will also include a tour of 40 historic sites in the city to answer questions people have about particular structures and to facilitate planned and impromptu tours of places and artifacts from the city’s past.

As the iron statues become permanent sites, the city seeks to bring other works of artistic value to the city for brief periods.

“We’re looking to try to establish a temporary art program, where maybe every year or two we ask someone to bring something that hasn’t been seen here so that our citizens can be exposed to different genres of art, ”Hall said.

He also notes that murals have a place in the artistic life of the city, especially the recently painted murals in Dunbar in anticipation of the rebirth of McCollum Hall.

“I think they’re very important. They spent a lot of time at the Black History Museum researching McCollum Hall and the artists who performed there,” he said. “The people of Dunbar really embraced these murals.”

Another mural of artistic significance in the city is the ceramic wall of the Indigo Hotel complex which takes viewers back to the time of Fort Myers’ birth.

Hall is excited about the new tech-focused guide that deepens the place of art in the community by making it easy to explore.

“City planners and civil engineers have identified more than three dozen benefits communities derive from a public art collection, but only to the extent that people know the works of art they know and why they do. are together, ”Hall said. “I think Otocast is a game-changer.”


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