subscribe: Posts | Comments

‘Rachel at the Well’ in need of a sponsor


The City of Fort Myers Public Art Committee is looking for a sponsor for The Spirit of Fort Myers. Popularly known as Rachel at the Well, she’s the Grecian maiden pouring water from an urn who greets residents and visitors entering Edison Park from McGregor Boulevard.

The maiden turned 96 this past April 8.  While most, if not all other sculptures created a century ago were chiseled from a block of granite, marble or some other stone, Rachel is made of stone substitute applied in layers over a skeleton frame. It’s held up well since being completed by German sculptor Helmut von Zengen in 1926, but like any figurative art piece that’s exhibited outdoors, Rachel requires biennial, if not annual, maintenance. In Rachel’s case, this is particularly important not only because of the effects of Southwest Florida’s heat, humidity and searing UV sunlight, but because she continually pours water from her urn into a basin at her feet.

While concrete is characteristically impervious, over time water cascading even small distances can cause scaling, which is the technical term for peeling or flaking. If untreated, this scaling can lead to gouges and other progressive losses. In extreme cases, it can ultimately lead to failure of whole sections of the statue and appurtenant structures. Rachel’s condition is not yet this dire, but it is not wise to delay treatment too long, especially with the advent of the summer rain and hurricane season.

Because of the sculpture’s age, the way it was made and the materials that von Zengen used, Rachel’s repair and maintenance requires the education, training and experience of expert conservators. In 2017, the City’s Public Art Committee brought in a team with an international reputation – Miami-based Rosa Lowinger & Associates. It took RLA the better part of a week to fix the decades-0ld damage, which included cracking and spalling caused by the minerals leaching from the lead pipes that delivered water to the statue, and degradation of the statue’s surface by some 46 layers of alternating green and white paint (For more than a quarter of a century, Rachel was painted green each year by Fort Myers High students to celebrate homecoming and then white again by the City and irritated local residents.)

This past February, RLA’s conservation team returned to conduct routine maintenance, but they found that the artwork had deteriorated significantly since 2017. Although the technicians washed the sculpture, pool and stairs and removed the mold and black biological growth that had built up on the stone since its 2017 conservation, the sculpture needs additional work. Those holes caused by Rachel’s cascading water need to be filled in with an aggregate that’s consistent with the material that von Zengen used when he created the sculpture. There are also cracks that require injections of epoxy to prevent further spalling and keep water from penetrating into the statue’s core. Once that’s accomplished, both the maiden and the basin need to be repainted with a special moisture-resistant product.

RLA estimates the cost of this additional work at $7,500. To prevent further damage and decay, RLA also strongly recommends that they return no less than every two years to clean and do needed patchwork before the water and weather creates larger holes, losses and cracking in the statue and the basin at Rachel’s feet. The cost of this every-two-years treatment ranges between $2,500 and $3,000.

The City’s Public Art Committee can only cover a portion of these costs, so it is looking for an individual, group, corporation or organization to sponsor The Spirit of Fort Myers so that Rachel will look as good on her 100th anniversary as she did when she was dedicated on April 8, 1926. The Committee intends to make it worth the sponsor’s while.

Besides the satisfaction that comes from helping preserve this artistic landmark that is the City’s second oldest public artwork, Rachel’s sponsor will derive a host of branding and advertising benefits. Those perks are established by the Sponsor-a-Sculpture program that the City established in 2021.

The Sponsor-A-Sculpture Program is a project whereby various citizens, groups or businesses adopt one of the City’s outdoor public artworks or sculptural installations for purposes of ensuring that they are at all times properly maintained. But unlike the City’s Adopt-A-Road or Adopt-A-Park Programs, participants do not clean or perform needed maintenance work on the sponsored sculptures. Rather, sponsors underwrite the costs of having an experienced team of art experts (such as RLA) do this delicate, highly-specialized work.

The program rewards sponsors by displaying the sponsor’s name and logo (if any) at the artwork and on Otocast, a free mobile phone app that tells residents, shoppers, tourists and other visitors all about the art they see downtown and in art hubs throughout the City. Through Otocast, sponsors’ names and logos garner tens of thousands of impressions every day, not only locally from passing motorists, but with people around the world who are planning trips to Southwest Florida. And not only do sponsors get recognition for being culturally conscious and increase their brand awareness, they also get to meet, and enjoy networking opportunities with, the conservators who maintain the artworks the public art professionals who administer and promote the City’s growing public art collection.

Sponsor-a-Sculpture was launched to address the Public Art Committee’s chronic funding shortage. Under the ordinance that created the Public Art Committee and associated public art program, the City only makes contributions to the public art fund when it initiates a capital improvement project. However, since 2017, there’s only been one – the new fire station on Six Mile Cypress Parkway. While funds have become available for maintenance as a result of that CIP, the Public Art Committee is challenged to allocate the money it will receive among all 40 of the outdoor public artworks in the City’s collection. Sponsorships will aid and assist the Committee in this vitally important work.

You can read all the details, learn about the program’s other perks here and see what other public artworks are in need of sponsors here. There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions section.

The Public Art Committee hopes to split the anticipated $10,000 in cost with The Spirit of Fort Myers’ eventual sponsor, whose participation will earn them sponsorship rights for the next two years.

Interested parties may either click on the “Get a Quote” bar provided on the Sponsor-a-Sculpture page on the City’s website, or contact the City’s Public Art Consultant, Tom Hall, by email at or by phone at 239-691-2292.

June 6, 2022.

Comments are closed.