Across the State of Florida, 13 counties and 35 cities have adopted mandatory public art ordinances. Another 15 municipalities have informal public art programs in place that range from multifaceted mural projects and short-term exhibits in publicly-accessible buildings of art on loan from local artists to permanent acquisitions arranged through public-private partnerships.
Locally, Naples requires $1 per square foot for public art on both municipal and non-residential development. Bonita Springs sets aside one percent of the cost of all new capital improvement projects for public art. And Fort Myers encourages allocations for public art on both city-initiated and private development projects.
Not to be left behind, the Matlacha Island Chamber of Commerce has quietly launched their own public art project.
“Two pieces of cement railing from the 1968 Matlacha Bridge will be used as historical markers,” reveals Matlacha Island Chamber president Leoma Lovegrove. Compliments of contractor Western Archer, one eight-ton section will be installed in Matlacha Park; the other will be displayed in the new park located at the west landing of the new bridge.
The 1968 bridge replaced the previous wooden span that was built in 1927. Because of the large volume of people who fished off it day and night, it became known as the “Fishing-est Bridge in the World.” But when it became functionally obsolete several years ago, it had to be replaced by a wider, more modern span. Much of the bridge, including the end-caps, was used to create an artificial reef off Charlotte County. But the newly-formed Matlacha Island Chamber of Commerce was able to secure some of the old bridge’s concrete railing for posterity.
In addition to the railing, Western Archer also gave the Chamber large steel grids from the main draw bridge as well as three of the original signs from the 1968 expanse. The sought-after signs will be sold to raise money for the project. The grids will be welded into the shape of a fish that Lovegrove will design free of charge.
The Chamber is seeking private sector partners to raise the estimated $2,000-$3,000 that it will cost to set the historical markers and welded fish in place. Vino’s Picasso owner Mercedes Price was the first to jump on board. When she heard about the Matlacha Island Chamber’s public art project back in January, she brought 45 of her customers from Fort Myers for an entire day of painting at Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens. The event was so successful that she presented the Chamber with a check for $110 after the painting session.
“The county is overseeing the entire project and has to pass all safety issues,” adds Lovegrove, who notes that all three projects require Lee County permits. “All three pieces will promote tourism and preserve our history.”
And that, after all, is an important function of all public art.