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Mural — and mosaic it is based on — depict an environmental 'savior'

An environmental savior for Southwest Florida – the mangrove tree – is a central aspect of a 25-foot-long mosaic planned in Fort Myers. It will be installed at The Ivy, a 274-unit multi-family complex being constructed on the site on the corner of First and Fowler Streets.
Tom Hall
Special to WGCU
An environmental savior for Southwest Florida – the mangrove tree – is a central aspect of a 25-foot-long mosaic planned in Fort Myers. It will be installed at The Ivy, a 274-unit multi-family complex being constructed on the site on the corner of First and Fowler Streets.

Southwest Florida’s first large-scale mosaic is coming soon to the Fort Myers River District. It will be installed by Zimmer Development Company of Wilmington, North Carolina at The Ivy, a 274-unit apartment complex being constructed on the site previously owned the United Methodist Church. While the tiles that comprise the five-foot-tall by 25-foot-long mosaic are being fabricated by a company based in Wales, Zimmer engaged popular local artist David Acevedo to design the mural on which it is based.

When he got the commission, Acevedo, like so many people in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties, was still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Acevedo knows the financial and emotional toll of hurricanes first hand. He lost touch with his extended family back home for three long months following Hurricane Maria. And since moving to Fort Myers in 2000, he’s also weathered Charley, Wilma and Irma. So he wanted his mosaic at The Ivy to remind folks that we have a natural buffer to hurricane-generated storm surge - mangroves.

“I was just thinking of something that would serve as a protector in a sense, or symbolically, for the area, for all downtown, after what we had with Hurricane Ian,” Acevedo relates. “So I thought of the mangrove as a natural protector of the land and its natural protection of the coast. I thought the mangrove would be the ideal symbol.”

In the U.S. alone, mangroves prevent $11.3 billion in property damage and protect 8,800 miles from flooding each year, with the greatest flood protection benefits occurring during tropical cyclones. According to the US Geological Survey, mangroves reduce surge heights at a rate of two to three feet per mile across the width of a mangrove forest.

“I’m not an expert by any means, but I heard many times that it’s basically what protects our coast and has all of these benefits to it.”

Like the Edison light bulb, royal palm and pineapple, Acevedo hopes his mangrove will one day become distinctively associated with the sustainability of our coastal ecology and our resilience as a community.

“I feel like a contributor to the beauty of our downtown, the River District, in a sense, because there’s going to be a … beautiful little corner of downtown with very vibrant colors, a mural that people can take selfies on and just say, hey, I was in Fort Myers. That makes me proud.”

Through his DAAS Co-op Gallery, the Union Artist Studios, Arts & Eats Café at the Alliance for the Arts and as an Art Walk co-founder in 2008, Acevedo has played an instrumental role in transforming downtown Fort Myers from an infrequently-visited business district that figuratively rolled up its sidewalks after 5 p.m. to a trendy art district with a thriving nighttime economy. Against this backdrop, he’s now thrilled to have a public art presence in the town he loves so dearly.

“You can tell the level of culture or the level of what’s really going on in the city, the progress of the city when you see beautifully made murals and mosaics and public art sculptures and things like that. I think it elevates the quality of the area. It brings beauty into the whole spectrum of what those surroundings are, and I honestly feel it’s incredibly necessary.”

Acevedo encourages other developers to take a page from Zimmer Development’s playbook.

“In my opinion, every developer should follow that same lead. Every developer, anybody who builds something that is going to be like a primary architectural landmark in our city, should bring in also art with it … something to give back to the City or the public and the people in the community, like a beautiful sculpture or painting or mural, whatever it is.”

Including art in a project is not only good citizenship, it’s good business.

“Now The Ivy has a like its own identity. It’s not just a building that they slapped in a corner that’s going to have a bunch of people. I think now with the mural on it, in my opinion, it’s the beautiful building that has the mural in the corner.”

David Acevedo takes great pride in the part he’s now playing in enhancing the beauty of the River District and the quality of life of both residents and visitors through his Living Land Mosaic will endure for decades to come … just like the mangrove that protects our local coastline.


  • Founded in 1989, Zimmer Development Company also has projects in Cape Coral and South Lee County.
  • Acevedo’s piece, The Living Lands, will be installed at the corner of First Street and Fowler Streets.
  • Zimmer Development Company’s multifamily development, The Ivy, is on schedule to open this year.
  • David Acevedo is a pop artist who is known throughout Southwest Florida for his vibrant colors, rich textures and clever compositions. Some commentators have labeled him as an abstract expressionist, but David characterizes himself more as an intuitive artist.
  • His recent body of work focuses on his roots, stemming from his upbringing in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, and his ever-present search for bits and pieces of an idealistic past. These elements mix with an impeccable palette of colors and textures, creating a fantastical scenery where imagination and reality find cohesiveness.
  • Acevedo graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Visual Arts from the prestigious University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus.
  • He is the recipient of two City of Fort Myers Arts & Culture grants, been twice named as the featured artist for the Arts for ACT Fine Art Auction and Gala and been recognized by D'Latinos and Gulfshore Business as an individual who reflects and celebrates positive values and ethnic and racial diversity within our community.
  • As a mixed media and multidisciplinary artist, he has created hundreds of artworks and exhibited in numerous individual and group exhibitions in and outside the United States.
  • David has been featured numerous times by the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, including his 2020 solo show.
  • While The Living Lands mosaic is an ode to the mangroves that naturally protect our coastlines, it also acknowledges that mangroves are endangered. Unfortunately, 62% of the mangroves in Southwest Florida suffered canopy damage during Hurricane Irma. While mangroves on well-drained sites (83%) re-sprouted new leaves within one year after that storm, those on poorly-drained inland sites experienced one of the largest mangrove diebacks on record (10,760 ha).
  • No information is yet available on the damage suffered by Southwest Florida mangroves and mangrove forests as a result of Hurricane Ian.
  • When damage from Ian is factored in, scientists fear that Southwest Florida’s mangrove population may have been pushed to the brink of collapse by the strong and sustained winds, storm surge, prolonged flooding, sedimentation and coastal erosion we have seen as a consequence of Hurricanes Irma and Ian.
  • “The colors chosen for the abstract background intentionally mimic the skies I witness every day as I drive home from a long day at work,” Acevedo points out. “These colors reenergize and invigorate us all and I strive to remind everyone driving by, the importance of our skies.”
  • “Additionally,” Acevedo adds, “there are some other symbols, which my work is characterized by, such as the ladder – which represents the connections we make in life; and the swirls or circles, which represent cycles in life, memories and life experiences. There is also a faint Royal Palm, making reference to the nearby McGregor Boulevard – where I have my studio and gallery. Being an abstract-expressionistic piece, it has more elements which remain open to interpretation.”
  • While Acevedo suffered minimal wind damage and no flooding to his home, art studio or gallery, many of his friends lost everything. “But we helped as much as we could. We cooked for people. Whatever else we could do we did. Luckily, it’s a thing of the past right now and we’re still surviving.”
  • Currently, Acevedo is involved in relocating DAAS Co-Op Gallery from the former Butterfly Estates into a 1,500-square-foot leasehold in the Edwards Building on the Alliance for the Arts campus. Assuming that they can secure the necessary inspections and certificate of occupancy by then, Acevedo hopes to re-open in mid-April.
  • As before, DAAS Gallery will continue to accept new artists under its cooperative umbrella and host monthly solo and themed group exhibitions that will coincide with openings at the Alliance for the Arts.
  • “We do a variety of things,” notes Acevedo. “We do a lot of calls for artists, invitationals, like ourFrida Kahlo-themed group shows, and I think that’s how our popularity has grown so much, because we’re constantly involving other people, inviting other people to participate and they don’t have to be members to participate.”