subscribe: Posts | Comments

Conservation of Wes Nott Memorial to be completed by Christmas


Work is under way on restoring the Wes Nott Memorial. The artwork had fallen into serious disrepair of late, a situation that was exacerbated by Hurricane Irma in 2017. But the statue of Fort Myers High School’s legendary swimming coach is well on its way to regaining the grandeur it possessed when it was installed by North Fort Myers sculptor D.J. Wilkins in 2000.

The cold cast aluminum sculpture was commissioned by the Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board in accordance with its long-standing program of honoring local people. It is located in the northeast corner of the campus of Lee Memorial Hospital in a broad concrete courtyard dominated by a keyhole-shaped fountain punctuated at the far end by a V-shaped balustrade against which leans the life-size likeness of Coach Nott. The park appropriately sits on the site of what was once the Wes Nott swimming pool.

“The railing he is leaning against is a duplication of the one that was around the pool,” notes Wilkins.

He also “bent [the coach’s] right leg and placed his foot on the bottom of the rail” to signify that Nott walked with a limp in his right leg as a result of polio.

Nott was state diving champion in Ann Arbor, Michigan and lettered all four years on his college swim team, overcoming difficulties associated with having polio when he was 18 months old and which left him with a limp for the rest of his life.

He joined the staff of Fort Myers High School as an assistant football coach following the end of the 1945 swim season. Nott quickly proved himself one of the best swim coaches in Florida. He retired in 1974 and died in 1984 at the age of 78. He touched the lives of an estimated 8,000 children who fondly remember him for helping them achieve their best both in and out of the water by emphasizing hard work and good sportsmanship. 

His memorial was, perhaps, in the worst condition of the 23 public artworks that Wilkins installed at the behest of the City’s Beautification Advisory Board between 1982 and 2000. The knee wall surrounding the pool was missing a considerable number of coping tiles and was in dire need of being caulked, sealed and repainted. But poor Wes Nott! Not only was paint flaking off the surface in huge chunks, portions of the composite cast were beginning to crack and separate! A quarter-inch wide by 14 inch long fissure had opened above the figure’s shoulder blades, and radiated down the shoulder to the base of the sleeve. Other minor separations were also visible on the left arm.

But to the casual observer, the most prominent loss was the statue’s left hand. It had become detached and was missing, leaving in its absence a half-inch threaded rebar that was cracking, corroding and causing further damage to both the arm and supporting concrete balustrade.

Fortunately, Wilkins had retrieved the hand and placed in safely in storage. After conservators from Rosa Lowinger & Associates stripped off all the paint in layers, injected the cracks and fissures with conservation-grade epoxy and applied a new coat of primer to the underlying composite, Wilkins had the hand delivered to RLA. It was in two pieces, and the index finger was completely missing. No problem. The conservation team reattached the hand and severed thumb, then built a new index finger based on photographs of the statue when it was originally installed.

Now all that remains is for the conservators to apply the top coat and sealant, which is scheduled for the week after next. Once that’s done, the pool can be refilled and the fountain turned back on. For all the folks who loved and admired Wes Nott or took a personal interest in his memorial, this will come as good news – perhaps even an early Christmas present of sorts.

Rosa Lowinger & Associates specializes in the conservation of built heritage, a term that encompasses art, architecture, museum collections, and public spaces. Rosa Lowinger is a recognized international expert in conservation and a specialist in modern and contemporary sculpture, architecture, and public art. She has been in private practice since 1988. Each of the company’s senior staff has been in practice for no less than 5 years and as a team, RLA has a combination of 50 years of experience carrying out conservation, cultural resource documentation, restoration, and historic remediation projects for architecture, public art, and sculpture in stone, masonry, concrete, metals, ceramic tile, terracotta, wood, plastic, plaster, terrazzo, linoleum and mosaics.

The Florida Panthers and each of the City’s other 69 public artworks are administered by a 9-member Public Art Committee (which consists of 7 voting members and 2 alternates) that was established by an ordinance that was adopted by the City Council in 2004. Members serve for three year terms, are not compensated, and must either be a resident of the city, work in the city, or be a member of an arts board or committee that is located in the city. The Public Art Committee oversees the commissioning, review, installation and maintenance of public art within the City. It meets in public session in City Council chambers on the third Tuesday of each month. Its next meeting is December 18.

For more on the Wes Nott Memorial, please read here.

December 6, 2018.



Comments are closed.