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Great Turtle Chase’s conservation now complete


On October 1st, Chris-Tel Construction and Miami-based art conservators Rosa Lowinger & Associates began conservation of The Great Turtle Chase, a statue of an infant chasing a turtle that sits at the foot of the brick wall that marks the entrance to Centennial Park East. Work has now been completed, and both the sculpture and the wall have been returned to their original condition.

Commissioned by Fort Myers’ Beautification Advisory Board, the sculpture was cast and installed by D.J. Wilkins, who former mayor Art Hammel once proclaimed as “the official sculptor of Fort Myers” because of the numerous (23) representational sculpture he has created for the city over the years.

“When we built the Centennial Park sign, I was looking for a symbol to represent the change of centuries and settled on this,” Wilkins reports. The baby symbolizes the new century coming in and the turtle represents the old, outgoing century.”

When it came time to cast the infant, Wilkins decided to use his daughter, Elizabeth, as the muse. Today, Elizabeth is still chasing turtles. Working for the fourth largest engineering firm in the world, her field work often involves surveying potential construction sites for burrowing owls and gopher tortoises and finding the later homes in protected habitats.


Originally dedicated in 1990, the sculpture had fallen into disrepair of late. The baby’s lower right leg had been broken off and was missing, as were all but the big toe on the toddler’s left foot. Several of the numbers in the dates on the wall were also missing, and the mortar needed a tuck-and-point and power washing.

Work is also underway to add The Great Turtle Chase to the City’s free phone app. Called Otocast, the app provides residents and visitors with technical information, historical photos, behind-the-scenes stories and other information about the public artworks they encounter throughout the City of Fort Myers. The centerpiece of the app is an audio recording that users can listen to while standing in front of the artwork they’re interested in learning more about.

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 Great Turtle Chase 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 November 20.

November 18, 2018.


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