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Buck’s Backyard finalists announced


The Fort Myers Mural Society has announced the three finalists for Buck’s Backyard, a mural project that will be painted on seventeen concrete panels on the eight-foot-tall wall that separates McCollum Hall from the residential neighborhood just to the north. During its heyday, the two-story 10,000-square-foot Art Deco building was considered the jewel of the Dunbar business community.

During the 1930s and ’40s, McCollum Hall became Southwest Florida’s most famous entertainment venue. Part of the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” the second-floor dance hall hosted such internationally-renowned musicians as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, Otis Redding, Lucky Milliner and Duke Ellington and his orchestra. During performances, many area residents would gather in the parking lot outside, where they would play along with the musicians inside on slap boxes, harmonicas and other instruments, eat barbeque, drink beer and smoke cigars. The venue was also the site of boxing matches, dances and other social events. Affectionately named Buck’s Backyard after the building’s owner Clifford “Buck” McCollum Sr., the grounds and parking lot also became the epicenter of impromptu jam sessions, socializing and just plain hangin’ out.

Michael Rosato, JP Almonicid and Erik Schlake were chosen from a field of nine applicants by a gold star five-member selection committee who scored the artists’ submissions on the basis of originality, technical ability, visibility by motorists passing by on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, style and how well their designs express the Buck’s Backyard theme. The finalists were all within three points of each other, scoring 102, 100 and 99 out of a possible 125 total points.

Each finalist will receive $500 to further develop their concepts and given 15 minutes to present their final designs to the City of Fort Myers Public Art Committee at its meeting on September 15, which is open to the public. After the presentations, stakeholders, community members and other interested parties will be given a chance to provide input on which of the three finalists should be commissioned to render the Buck’s Backyard mural before the Committee selects the winning design.

The Public Art Committee is also exploring the possibility of relocating two of the City’s Cor-Ten steel Edgardo Carmona sculptures, Duo Sinfonico or Flute Player and Sintonia or Nostalgic Tune on the Radio, to the McCollum Hall site in an effort to convert the location into an “art hub.” In so doing, Fort Myers will join Florida cities like Miami, Tampa and Gainesville, which are bringing art and artists into residential neighborhoods to make art accessible to everyone and convert previously ho-hum spaces into centers of creativity that appeal to creative class workers and residents. The McCollum Hall hub will be linked to the City’s other creative centers and outdoor public artworks through Otocast, a free mobile app that provides information, audios and maps showing the location of each of the nearly 70 works of art that comprise the City’s public art collection.

The City of Fort Myers designated McCollum Hall as an historic landmark in 1998 and the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency purchased the property ten years later, immediately undertaking to restore the property to its original grandeur. It passed the baton to McCollum Redevelopment Associates, LLC/REVA Development Corporation in 2018. The developer expects to complete the interior restoration of the dance hall and retail spaces by the end of 2020.

When it is placed back in service, McCollum Hall is projected to create 75 jobs (43 of which will be permanent) and introduce one restaurant, up to five retail spaces, and a multi-use event space to the community.

By paying homage to the property’s backstory, the mural project will compliment REVA’s restoration effort and add to the site’s storied legacy.

The Fort Myers Mural Society anticipates that work on the mural will begin in early January and completed on or before April 30, 2021.

The Fort Myers Mural Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose objectives include the revitalization, preservation and economic enhancement of the community through the painting of murals that depict the rich history of our area. Murals have become a unique and appealing way of increasing tourism and improving commerce, and the Fort Myers Mural Society has been working toward this vision of artistic identity and cultural richness in Fort Myers since 2013. “Our goal is to become one of the key mural destinations for tourism in Southwest Florida,” states FMMS Director Shari Shifrin. “In the next five years, through our annual ART STUMBLE event, chalk competition and other fundraising avenues we plan to facilitate the painting of several murals that will boost tourism, which results in significant tax revenues.

July 26, 2020.


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