A call to artists to connect Dunbar and Fort Myers at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Veronica S. Shoemaker Blvd
The intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Veronica S. Shoemaker Boulevard will soon commemorate local culture and express the concepts of dreams, hope and civil rights through the power of public art.
“We are in, what I would say, is the true heart of the city, at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Veronica S. Shoemaker Boulevard," said Antoine Williams, Assistant Director of Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency, or CRA. "At the cross-sections of those two intersections is a small enclave parcel of land that we have designated for a capital art project.”
In the middle of a heavily-trafficked, commercial area sits a newly-bricked site surrounded by lush green grass and some recently added landscaping. Williams is explaining how the idea to revamp this space came straight from the community itself.
“Essentially, it was the people, it was the community that called for that action and said that we wanted more art to elevate our community," said Williams. "Art that’s reflective of our community, and the promise and hope of what we want our community to be.”
The CRA reached out to the community in 2020, and given the pandemic, it was a virtual call to action. After the initial online meet up, a survey was sent to community members, which showed a desire to see an art project that reflects civil rights, hope, and the essence of dreams, which are crucial ideas that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Veronica S. Shoemaker represent.
Williams said the money for the capital art project comes through the CRA via a $100,000 tax increment and is only one part of a larger MLK redevelopment trust fund project.
- $1,500: three finalists will be paid a design fee of $500 each to develop a virtual proposal for final consideration by the Selection Committee.
- $98,500: to be paid to the artist/artist team selected for this project, to cover materials including solar lighting (if any), engineering, fabrication, permitting, transportation, travel, installation, insurance, documentation, contingencies, and the artist’s/artist team’s fee.
Tom Hall is the City of Fort Myers’ Public Art Consultant. He’s assisting with the call to artists and advising the selection process for this project. He said there is no set criteria or art style the selection committee is looking for which makes the possibilities endless.
“That’s actually part of the excitement with a call to artists," said Hall.
"We don’t know who is going to respond. We don’t know what type of work they’ve done in the past or what kind of concept or design they’re going to come up with. We’re going to be learning along with the community as it happens. Really, what we’re looking for is for artists who are serious about their craft, who want to take the project to heart and do something unique for the community that the community can take pride in.”
The hope is that this intersection will better connect the historic Dunbar Community to downtown Fort Myers. Named after two luminaries, global figure and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr. and Veronica S. Shoemaker, local activist and the first African American elected to the Fort Myers City Council, the CRA sees the space deserving of a cultural landmark.
“As Martin Luther King Jr. was to the nation, I think Veronica Shoemaker was to the Fort Myers community,” said Hall.
Williams adds that Shoemaker is the reason redevelopment of the area is able to -- and continues to -- happen.
"She really is the Mother of Redevelopment. It’s because of her role on the council, and calling for the creation of the Redevelopment Agency to revitalize downtown, that even today, the CRA even exists and are able to sow in and rehab areas of our community."
Shoemaker's impact is personal to Williams.
“She was instrumental in creating reading programs at the Dunbar Community Library and I was a pupil of one of those programs where they brought us in, and at the time it was newspapers," said Williams. "They took us through the newspaper and helped us with our reading. For me, it’s very important to see her legacy live on because I am a product and benefactor of her work.”
Growing up in Dunbar, Williams says he struggled finding a sense of place within Southwest Florida, and hopes this project will give that feeling of belonging and connectivity back to other Black community members.
“I grew up here in Dunbar and yet I struggled, even until when I was working on my undergrad at Florida Gulf Coast University -- go eagles, wings up -- I struggled to establish a sense of place," said Williams.
"Having a landmark art piece; something to say that, ‘Hey, I was there when that got installed or built,’ or there's this great sculpture you can relate to when you’re telling someone else about your community, that is significant to helping establish that sense of place. So, for me I think that’s probably very important for a child like me growing up here.”
Artists wishing to be considered for this project need to apply by midnight on Thursday, Oct. 28. Finalists will be selected, and three winners will be chosen on Jan. 18, 2022. The installation is slated to begin between April 1 and June 30, 2022.
Artists must meet at least two of the following criteria in order to have their submissions considered:
- Completed other public art commissions of a similar scale.
- Received awards, grants or fellowships.
- Had works included in major private, corporate or museum collections.
- Had at least one solo exhibition at an American Association of Museum’s accredited institution within the past five years.
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