Each month, cultureNOW showcases a different community’s public art collection. In May, cultureNOW featured Fort Myers. This month, the public art registry thought it would be fun to showcase a few of the more unique pieces in the Percent for Art Collection of Kansas City, Missouri.
“Many of the residents in Kansas City live in the suburbs with the consequence that the city relies heavily on the automobile,” notes cultureNOW in its online monthly newsletter. “Every few blocks, garages which are often large 6-story boxes punctuate significant portions of the urban landscape. Several recent art commissions are about taking a fresh approach to re-imagining them. Egawa and Zbryk’s Barnacles, an installation erupting on the side of a garage is reminiscent of nature. Another parking lot piece, Gordon Hether’s Red Eye references moving tail lights as the one visual constant, especially at night.”
In Fort Myers, Marylyn Dintenfass’ 30,000-square-foot Parallel Park installation has transformed the 5-story Lee County Justice Center Parking Garage into a work of fine art that has first time visitors asking “Is this the fine art museum?” It consists of 23 open-weave Kevlar and fiberglass fabric panels that have been attached to the exterior of the Lee County Justice Center Parking Garage by aluminum tubes. Each panel stands an astounding 33 feet tall by 22 feet wide and the images change right before the viewer’s eyes as the sun carves its daily arc and clouds scurry across the bright blue Florida sky.
Taken together, the 23 panels “metaphorically express the spirit of the automobile.” It’s a subject with which Dintenfass has had a love affair since before the time she could drive.
“The circle shapes conjure tires, headlights, dashboard instrumentation and steering wheels,” Marylyn explains. “Linear patterns are emblematic of roads, ramps, directions and parking designations.”
Dintenfass’ iconography of postwar American automotive culture directly integrates her interpretation of mobility and space with the fundamental purpose of a parking garage. It’s an apt simile given that Fort Myers’ was the winter home of Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, two of the leading pioneers of the American automobile industry.
Among the myriad benefits associated with public art is its ability to enhance and define a city’s identity, burnish the city’s image to the outside world and enable a community to attain recognition as a regional and national leader in the visual arts. By these measures, Dintenfass’ Parallel Park is an unquestionable success. The installation has been featured in such diverse publications as The Parking Professional, ARTNews and NY Arts magazines, as well as a book by Aliza Edelman that was published in 2011 by Hard Press Editions in association with Hudson Hills Press. Titled Marylyn Dintenfass Parallel Park, the 140-page monograph has placed Fort Myers in the public art spotlight worldwide.
Parallel Park received the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network 2011 Year in Review Award. It was selected by curators Gail Goldman, Kendal Henry and Richard Turner out of 430 projects submitted by public art programs and artists nationwide.
The project was a joint venture between Lee County and the City of Fort Myers that was conceived by local architect Kevin Williams of BSSW Architects and implemented by a team consisting of the artist, a fabricator in Orlando, a printer in North Carolina and the Fort Myers Public Art Committee, with the assistance of Fort Myers Beach art consultant Barbara Anderson Hill. The installation was dedicated December 9, 2010.
For more information about Parallel Park, please visit cultureNOW, the Public Art Archive, Art Southwest Florida or MyRiverDistrict.com or call 239-945-0405 or visit www.TrueTours.net to take a public art walking tour that features the piece.