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What Dreams We Have and How They Fly

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What Dreams We Have and How They Fly is a 5 x 10 foot linear steel sculpture with mosaic elements that is located in the southern perimeter of Roberto Clemente Park along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The title of the sculpture comes from a poem by renowned black author, playwright and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who has served as inspiration for the Dunbar community of Fort Myers for more than 90 years.

The sculpture depicts the silhouetted heads of two African American adults, one male and the other female, as well as one child. Embedded in these plasma-cut steel silhouettes are brightly-colored yellow, orange and red fused glass pieces that, taken together, make a metaphorical statement. As is true everywhere, the fabric of the Dunbar Community is a mosaic of the collective dreams, aspirations and, yes, disappointments of its individual members.

Or in the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar:

  • What dreams we have and how they fly
  • Like rosy clouds across the sky;
  • Of wealth, of fame, of sure success,
  • Of love that comes to cheer and bless;
  • And how they wither, how they fade,
  • The waning wealth, the jilting jade –
  • The fame that for a moment gleams,
  • Then flies forever, -dreams, ah -dreams!

 

  • O burning doubt and long regret
  • O tears with which our eyes are wet,
  • Heart-throbs, heart-aches, the glut of pain,
  • The somber cloud, the bitter rain,
  • You were not of those dreams – ah! well,
  • Your full fruition who can tell?
  • Wealth, fame, and love, ah! love that beams
  • Upon our souls, all dreams – ah! dreams.

 

Historical Backdrop

In 1927, there was no high school that black children could attend. So an iconic Fort Myers business woman and social activist by the name of Dr. Ella Mae Piper helped finance the construction of a high school for African-American children from Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties. It was named Dunbar Community School for poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. But Dr. Piper did not stop there. A proponent of higher education, she played an instrumental role in helping young people obtain scholarships to attend Tuskegee College, sometimes using her personal funds for this purpose. As a mentor, she also coached children in oration and took many around the state to attend meetings and conferences.

At the time Dunbar Community School opened, the surrounding community was known as Safety Hill. While the area was slightly elevated and safe from flooding during torrential summer rains, the name had a deeper significance for the residents who lived there. This was a time of segregation and Jim Crow laws, and Safety Hill was the only place that blacks could feel safe from the hostility and violence threatened in other parts of the town. And so it was that for decades, black parents sheltered their children from the manifestations of racism experienced by African-Americans in other places.

While the name Safety Hill gave way to Dunbar in the 1940s, the dreams and aspirations of the community remained the same – that its children receive a good education; that they have the opportunity for success, happiness and a home of their own; that they would enjoy a better life than that of their parents. As African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry so eloquently depicted in her play A Raisin in the Sun, all of us share in this, the American dream – regardless of race, color or creed.

“To emphasize this point, I invited members of the community to join me in the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church parking lot after the Easter Parade in 2015 to make fused glass pieces representing their dreams,” recounts sculptor Cheryl Foster. “I then embedded these brightly-colored yellow, orange and red components in the sculpture to make a metaphorical statement that my sculpture signifies that every man, woman and child living in the Dunbar community has dreams, goals and disappointments. They are to be acknowledged, even celebrated, because they are what give life meaning.”

 

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New public artwork installed in Clemente Park (10-26-15)

Dream 08Maryland artist Cheryl Foster was back in town on Friday, October 23. Before she left, Ms. Foster installed a new public artwork in Clemente Park. The brightly colored 5×10 foot plasma-cut steel sculpture with mosaic elements is called What Dreams May Fly and How They Fly.

The piece depicts the silhouetted heads of an African-American male, female and child, and Dream 02includes fused glass pieces that the community helped Foster make at an event she hosted on Easter Sunday at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Palm Avenue. Through the piece, both Foster and the City of Fort Myers Public Art Community seek to draw attention to the accomplishments of the Dunbar community, both past and future, speak to the rich and complex history of the African-American Dream Close Up 02community, enhance the park, promote a deeper sense of community and reinforce the Black Historical Society’s mission.

Foster was selected in 2014 by the Public Art Committee from a national field of 67 applicants for the $20,000 commission. Foster is a multi-media artist specializing in large-scale public art. A graduate of Howard University and Master Artist Heart 02in Residence with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Cheryl designs and executes visual arts programs integrated with local content standards. She can be found along the east coast throwing paint, welding metal, sculpting and painting with stained glass. Knee-deep in color, she works with communities, art councils, architects, and developers, enhancing Roberto Clemente Park 02environments.

The city of Fort Myers’ public art program seeks to enrich the cultural climate of the city, fostering a sense of place for residents and visitors. For more information, please visit www.cherylfostersart.com.

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Fused glass workshop to be conducted by artist Cheryl Foster during Easter Parade (04-01-15)

Cheryl Foster 321Maryland artist Cheryl Foster will conduct a hands-on fused glass workshop on Easter Sunday from 3-5 p.m in the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church parking lot at 2030 Palm Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33916. Seniors and students will work together with the artist to make fused-glass components to be incorporated into her upcoming public art project for Clemente Park.

Foster was selected last year by the city’s Public Cheryl Foster 2Art Committee from a national field of 67 applicants for the $20,000 public art commission. What Dreams May Fly and How They Fly, a 5 x 10 foot linear steel sculpture with mosaic elements, will speak to the rich and complex history of the African American community, enhance the park, promote community and reinforce the Black Williams Academy Black History MuseumHistorical Society’s mission. The sculpture will be installed in the front center of Clemente Park along Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard where it can be enjoyed by both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

The sculpture honors the triumphs of African Americans in the Dunbar community and depicts three African American silhouetted heads (two adults, one child) plasma cut from steel. A colorful Willaims Academy Black History Museum 3 (3)mosaic tile design on one side will reference accomplishments in the Dunbar community, past and future.

Cheryl Foster is a multi-media artist specializing in large-scale public art. A graduate of Howard University and Master Artist in Residence with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Cheryl designs and executes visual arts programs integrated with local content standards. She can be found along the east coast throwing paint, welding Cheryl Foster 21metal, sculpting and painting with stained glass. Knee-deep in color, she works with communities, art councils, architects, and developers, enhancing environments.

The city of Fort Myers’ public art program seeks to enrich the cultural climate of the city, fostering a sense of place for residents and visitors. For more information, please visit www.cherylfostersart.com.

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More on Maryland multi-media artist Cheryl Foster (04-16-14)

Cheryl Foster 321The City of Ft Myers Public Art Committee has announced that its has selected Maryland artist Cheryl Foster to produce a sculpture with mosaic components to be installed in Clemente Park in East Fort Myers. Chosen from a national field of 67 applicants, Foster was one of three finalists who presented proposals to the Committee on March 31, 2014.

Foster is a multi-media artist who has completed public art commissions in Maryland, Washington D.C., North Carolina and Florida. Her large-scale public art graces such prestigious locations as Arlington Cemetery and National Harbor, where she installed a cut glass mural titled Maryland’s Bounty in 2008.

Cheryl Foster Mural 2Believing that vision dictates medium, Foster adapts her materials to fit the specific site and project at hand. When a commission calls for softness, for example, Cheryl may use pastels. When a looser style beckons, she may throw tile, stained glass, beads, bones or brass into custom-colored grout. Maryland’s Bounty contains clam, crab and oyster shells in addition to cut glass. The elegance of oil is her tool for sensitive, yet traditional realist portraits. She can be found delicately placing tiny beads in a painting or welding a power saw while designing and building large scale public art. Never knowing what vehicle a vision may require, she keeps an open and flexible mind and trusts that the rest will follow.

Cheryl Foster 1The Howard University B.F.A. reached a turning point in her art career as a result of her mother’s death. Like 93 percent of art graduates, Foster set aside her passion for art in order to earn a steady income after marrying and settling down. She worked for twenty years “in a suit, in a car” as a real estate appraiser, “using a side of my brain that doesn’t even exist anymore,” Cheryl recounts. Then her mother was diagnosed with a terminal cancer just as she was about to retire. On her deathbed, “she was babbling out of her mind,” Cheryl relates. “She wanted to go up in a hot-air balloon. She wanted to go to the Bahamas. Why wasn’t there any time for that before she couldn’t ever make that journey? So when she passed, that was it. I never appraised another thing.”

Cheryl Foster MuralWhen she was growing up, Cheryl’s parents had encouraged her to become a teacher and today Foster is also an accomplished arts educator. She serves as a Master Artist in Residence for the John F. Kennedy Center’s DC School and Community Initiatives, and she has authored and presented children and family programs for the National Gallery, the Broward County Cultural Division, the City of Delray Beach, the Roanoke Arts Council, and a host of local agencies.

Cheryl Foster 4321“Her creative flexibility serves her well as an arts educator, as she weaves the creative arts and character building elements into traditional classroom curriculums,” states her bio for the DC School & Initiatives Program for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. “From puppetry and quilling to huge creative productions, students at all grade and skill levels are provided with exciting and often therapeutic outlets. In traditional school settings, as well as detention center environments, science, math language arts, social studies, history and character building, all are enhanced and reinforced, using art experiences. Cheryl Foster’s art residencies serve as a search engine for a fantastic voyage of self-realization and wonder for the student, teacher and artist.”

Cheryl Foster 21“Turpentine, oil, a hot glue gun, that’s what’s running through my veins,” the artist says of her life today as a monumental artist. ““I don’t want a safety net, I just want to be out there and doing. But my happiness is a little bit different from everyone else’s.”

And soon, Cheryl Foster will be sharing that happiness with the Dunbar community as she installs the City’s latest public artwork in Clemente Park.

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Maryland artist Cheryl Foster chosen for Clemente Park sculpture project (04-16-14)

Cheryl Foster 1The City of Ft Myers Public Art Committee has announced that its has selected Maryland artist Cheryl Foster to produce an original artwork that is to be located in Clemente Park in East Fort Myers. Chosen from a national field of 67 applicants, Foster was one of three finalists who presented proposals to the PAC on March 31, 2014.

Cheryl Foster 21The Public Art Committee met on April 15 to consider each of the finalist’s proposals. Foster’s proposed public artwork is a 5 by 10 foot linear steel sculpture with mosaic elements that will speak to the rich and complex history of the African American community, enhance the park, promote community and reinforce the Black Historical Society’s mission. Cheryl Foster 321The sculpture will be placed in the front center of Clement Park along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, where it can be enjoyed by both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The sculpture, honoring the triumphs of African Americans in the Dunbar community, depicts three African American silhouetted heads (two adults, one child) plasma cut from steel. A planned mosaic tile design on one side will reference accomplishments in the Dunbar community, past and future.

As a community component of this public art project, Ms. Foster will design and conduct a multi-generational workshop to take place before and during her installation timeframe.

Cheryl Foster MuralCheryl Foster is a multi-media artist who specializes in large-scale public art. A graduate of Howard University and Master Artist in Residence with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Cheryl designs and executes visual arts programs integrated with local content standards. She can be found along the east coast throwing paint, welding metal, sculpting and painting with stained glass. Knee-deep in color, she works with communities, art councils, architects, and developers, enhancing environments. She has completed public art projects in Maryland, Florida, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina and samples of her work can be viewed at www.cherylfostersart.com.

Tootie Viewed from the NorthThe city of Fort Myers’ public art program seeks to enrich the cultural climate of the city by fostering a sense of place for residents and visitors. The City of Fort Myers’ public art collection dates back to 1913, when Dr. Marshall Terry installed the Tootie McGregor Fountain to honor the memory of his late wife, a civic leader who played an instrumental role in developing the riverfront, getting roads paved, and bringing golf and Major League Baseball to the city. Today, the City’s public art collection is administered pursuant to an ordinance first introduced by former mayor Jim Humphrey that encourages public and private developers to either purchase public art or make a contribution the City’s public art fund.

PAC June 18 2013 FMonies contributed to the city’s public art fund are administered by a 9-member Public Art Committee (which consists of 7 voting members and 2 alternates). Currently, the committee is chaired by Robert Sanford, an architect and project manager employed by RS&H, a firm that offers a full range of architecture, engineering, design, planning, environmental, management and construction services throughout the nation. JaredJared T. Beck, a principal and project manager for JTravis Group, serves as Vice Chair. Its other members include Past Chairs Ava Roederand ArtFest Executive Director Sharon McAllister, Gwen Middlebrooks, William Taylor and David J. Meo, as well as alternate Patricia Collins and Carolyn Gora.

Urban planners and art consultants believe that a vital and robust public art program:

  1. boosts/strengthens civic pride;
  2. enhances and defines a city’s identity;
  3. reflects the unique character and history of the city;
  4. burnishes the city’s image to the outside world;
  5. Cindy, Kay, Kathy, Peter Mitten, Celia, Lois and Miltcreates an important positive impression for visitors;
  6. encourages/increases tourism;
  7. enables the community to attain recognition as a regional and national leader in the visual arts;
  8. symbolizes a community’s maturity;
  9. expresses the vision of community leaders;
  10. makes a statement about the community’s values and culture;
  11. elevates the image of proximately-located corporate enterprises;
  12. FAPAP Enjoys Fire Dance 2spurs economic development in the community;
  13. creates visual and aesthetic landmarks;
  14. creates positive mental images;
  15. imparts a more aesthetic, cohesive visual and physical appearance;
  16. enriches the public environment visually;
  17. makes the beautification of the city a matter of the highest priority;
  18. South Facade 2013enhances the climate for artistic creativity in the community;
  19. brings art and art education to the entire community;
  20. creates public art community partnerships linking individuals of all  races, ethnicities, age, genders, professions, and economic levels;
  21. stimulates our imagination;
  22. 108 (10)promotes excellence and diversity through a variety of artists and media;
  23. provides tangible outlets for creative ingenuity;
  24. increases property values;
  25. enriches the cultural climate of the city;
  26. reflects and enhances the city’s  diversity, character and heritage through the integration of artworks and designs in the architecture, infrastructure and landscape on public and private property;
  27. View from The Seminole Lodge (4)makes a space seem more welcoming;
  28. creates a deeper interaction with the place one is visiting or working in;
  29. increases awareness of how surroundings impact experience;
  30. expresses shared ideals and concepts;
  31. enhances the quality of life for residents and property owners;
  32. adds to the visual quality of life;
  33. engages the community;
  34. draws people together and induces strangers to talk to each other;
  35. Lorelei's Left Side 2raises the level of citizen awareness to the importance of aesthetic and intellectual experiences in everyday life;
  36. promotes understanding and awareness of visual arts in the public realm;
  37. makes a commitment to future generations; and
  38. creates “human scaling” of open areas by framing the space with various forms of public art structures.

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  1. Ava Roeder says:

    Very nice article on Cheryl Foster. She is so very gracious. Pat, Donna and I had a chance to meet her while she was here working with the community. We are looking forward to seeing the sculpture installed and in its new home in Clemente Park. We are honored to have such an accomplished and beautiful artist agree to share her ideas and artistic guidance within the Ft. Myers community. This will make an impact for the children and patrons who pass by the sculpture on MLK and who play, work and relax in Clemente Park for many decades to come.

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