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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Plans in place for Olympians' art museum
By Glenn Miller
Originally posted on June 21, 2007

Kinfay Moroti/
Art of the Olympians board members Markus Sherry, left, Al Oerter and Alyce Bochette discuss plans Wednesday at the Downtown Redevelopment Agency in Fort Myers to build a museum that would feature art from Olympians.

For now, the city pier building in downtown Fort Myers houses city offices.

By the time the 2008 Summer Olympics begin in Beijing next August, the building should be home to a museum called Art of the Olympians, a worldwide gallery of art produced by Olympic athletes. That, at least, is the goal of Olympic discus legend Al Oerter, a Fort Myers Beach resident and painter.

"We'd like to open in conjunction with the games in Beijing," Oerter said.

Fort Myers architect Jeff Mudgett unveiled Wednesday what he called "initial conceptual ideas" for the museum in a meeting room at the Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency, a short walk from the future home of Olympic art.

Oerter's goal is to make Fort Myers the world headquarters for art by Olympic athletes. The work of 14 Olympic athletes was displayed at the Lee County Alliance for the Arts in 2006.

He said his organization, Art of the Olympians, hopes to sell naming rights to the museum to help cover the $2 million expenses of remaking the building. The Lee County Tourist Development Council has committed $450,456 to the project.

Mudgett said the building, originally intended as a terminal for ferry service to Key West, will be modified and not replaced. The front of the building will be replaced, Mudgett said.

"The building is there," Mudgett said.

Mudgett's preliminary design includes the famous interlocking Olympic ring insignia over the front door. The International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee are protective of the rings.

"They trust us," Oerter said. "They know we're going to protect their intellectual property."

Oerter, a four-time Olympic champ in the discus, has worked with the USOC to secure rights to use the rings. Fort Myers resident Lin Bochette, a former Olympic bobsledder and decathlete for Puerto Rico, said Oerter's stature has been indispensible in moving the museum closer to reality.

"It's not possible without Al," Bochette said.

Mudgett and Oerter envision the Hendry Street site evoking an Olympic feel as visitors approach the museum. They hope to have four flags — representing the U.S., Olympics, United Nations and Florida — joined by the flags of the countries represented by the homes of the artists displaying work at any given time.

"A true Olympic experience," Oerter said.

The museum will have two floors, the first with a gift shop and meeting rooms, the second devoted to the gallery.

10,630 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Olympic art hall in Fort Myers hits snag
City told it must consider alternate bids

By Joel Moroney
[email protected]
Originally posted on September 27, 2007

Andrew West/
Four-time Olympic discus gold medalist Al Oerter of Fort Myers Beach with some of his paintings.
Order Picture

The sprint to bring an Olympic art gallery to the downtown waterfront hit a hurdle this week — Fort Myers city leaders were told to seek alternate proposals before turning over the $2 million waterfront building to Art of the Olympians for $1 a year.

Art of the Olympians is being championed by several former Olympic athletes and area residents, including Al Oerter, a Fort Myers Beach resident, painter and four-time Olympic discus gold medalist.

Oerter's dream for the waterfront building includes a first-floor gift shop, coffee shop, offices and meeting rooms.

The second floor, and its panoramic views of the Caloosahatchee River, would showcase art by Olympic athletes.

"We have exclusive use of the five rings and the word 'Olympian,'" Oerter told council, noting he can begin campaigning for funding from 33 primary Olympic sponsors as soon as the lease is secured. "We are talking about bringing a world-class facility, attraction and destination to the downtown waterfront."

But Berk Edwards, an attorney for the Community Redevelopment Agency, said law requires requesting public proposals for 30 days before turning such a city asset over to a non-profit organization.

"In essence, make this a public bid process," Edwards said.

The modern building sitting at the center of riverfront revitalization and the future Hendry Street Farmer's Market has never had a purpose. It was built by the city with tax dollars in 1999 for a ferry company that never docked and later leased for $75,000 a year to another company that failed to make a go of it as either a ferry boat company or a restaurant.

The news is the first brakes on the project, which has moved quickly since Oerter conceived it after an Alliance for the Arts gallery featured art from Olympic athletes at the start of the 2006 Winter Games.

"The Olympic Committee is really behind us and sees it as something that should have been done a long time ago," Oerter said. "We are going to go around the world and get the athlete artists to participate."

Council already approved the project in its role as the Community Redevelopment Agency before the city flagged the need to allow other proposals, City Attorney Grant Alley said.

The legal delay frustrated Councilman Michael Flanders, who represents downtown. He said the Olympic gallery has been in the works since February.

"I just think we should have been made aware of this a lot sooner," Flanders said. "It's very frustrating."

Jeff Mudgett, a Fort Myers architect working with the city on downtown improvements, unveiled conceptual ideas that would include the famed Olympic logo in a redesign of the front of the building.

The Lee County Tourist Development Council has committed $450,456 toward $2 million in renovations.

Oerter said he hoped council limits use to arts and culture.

"If it's just art museums and that type of thing, I think we can win that competition hands down," he said. "But if it goes out for all uses, then I don't know."

The group's initial $5, five-year lease renews for three five-year periods for $50,000 to $150,000 a year and could keep it there through 2027. They dropped a request the city repaint the building and add waterfront fencing, a $100,000 expense according to written estimates.

City Manager William Mitchell said staff will provide council with a draft of the request-for-proposals as early as Monday. Legal staff is reviewing whether proposals can be limited to non-profit cultural activities, spokeswoman Jennifer Hobbic said.

Several council members voiced support for the Olympic project.

"There are multiple Olympians involved who are accomplished, world renowned and will be contributing to this for years to come," Councilman Randy Henderson said.

But even Henderson doubts it will be the facility's last re-incarnation.

"Long term that particular facility is probably more suitable for something retail or restaurant oriented," he said. "I think its fair to say this is a transitional experience."

At 71, Oerter said he hopes the gallery survives for years to come and is open in time for the August 2008 Olympic games.

"We could have our opening ceremonies at the same time they have their opening ceremonies," Oerter said. "But if we miss it, we miss it. The games are every two years. We'll just keep plugging away."

10,630 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Fort Myers council to vote on Olympians’ art gallery
Christina Cepero • [email protected] • March 3, 2008

An Olympian’s dream of opening a gallery of art created by Olympic artists could start to come true tonight.

The Fort Myers City Council will meet starting at 4:30 tonight at City Hall, 2200 Second St.

The council will consider approval of a lease with the Art of the Olympians Foundation at the City Pier Building.

The 14,342 square-foot waterfront building would become the world headquarters for art by Olympic athletes.

Al Oerter, a four-time gold medalist in the discus and a Fort Myers Beach resident, founded the organization in 2006. He died Oct. 1.

Arts of the Olympians Foundation will lease the property at 1300 Hendry St. for $1 per year for five years beginning April 1.

The foundation will raise money for the $2 million renovation and remaking of the building.

The Lee County Tourist Development Council has committed $450,456 to the project.

It will be called the Al Oerter Center of Excellence.

The gallery will have two floors — the first will have a gift shop, coffee shop, meeting rooms and educational areas.

The second floor will be devoted to the gallery and feature works by 14 artist athletes from seven countries. More may be added.

The foundation plans the first phase of construction to be completed and the grand opening to be celebrated sometime in January 2009.

The second phase is expected to be finished before the Summer Olympic Games Festival in August 2012.

The hours of operation would be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and could be extended but not reduced.

During the fourth and fifth years, the gallery may relocate to a similar size space in a nearby downtown area on the waterfront between the Caloosahatchee River and Bay Street.

The foundation also will have the opportunity to renew the lease for three additional five-year periods until 2028.

The council also will vote on whether to set up a Citizen Police Oversight Study Committee.

The committee would determine whether to form a Citizens Advisory Board who would advise the Police Chief Hilton Daniels on operating policies or a Citizens Review Board who would review investigations of complaints against police officers.

It would consider the models used by various Florida cities and make a recommendation to the council and city manager Billy Mitchell.

Each City Council member would appoint a resident and the council will select two at-large residents.

The committee should complete its work within 90 days of its first meeting.

10,630 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·

Fort Myers City Council approves Olympians’ art gallery
Christina Cepero • [email protected] • March 3, 2008

A man’s dream of making Southwest Florida the world headquarters of art by fellow Olympic athletes is coming true.

The Fort Myers City Council on Monday approved unanimously a lease with the Art of the Olympians Foundation for the City Pier Building.

Al Oerter, who won the gold medal in discus in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968 and later created abstract paintings, established the foundation in 2006 with the hopes of opening a museum. The Fort Myers Beach resident died Oct. 1, 2007 at age 71 of heart failure.

“This evening was really great. We’re very, very happy,” said his wife, Cathy Oerter.
“As I walked out of council chambers, it was bittersweet. I had tears in my eyes. I wish Al could have been here to see the fruition of all of his efforts.”

Art of the Olympians Foundation will lease the property at 1300 Hendry St. for $1 per year for five years beginning April 1.

The foundation will raise money for the $2 million renovation of the 14,342 square-foot building.

Oerter’s friends and foundation board members Liston Bochette and Markus Sherry are working on bringing the museum to life with Cathy and Oerter’s daughter, Gabrielle.

Bochette, who participated on the Olympic Puerto Rican bobsled team and is an artist, said major national and international sponsors as well as individual donors are interested.

The Lee County Tourist Development Council has committed $450,456, which will go toward items such as office equipment, furniture and televisions.

“This is really a special opportunity for our city,” Mayor Jim Humphrey said.

The gallery will have two floors — the first will have a gift shop, coffee shop, meeting rooms and educational areas.

The second floor will be devoted to the gallery and feature works by at least 14 artist-athletes from seven countries.

“Our goal is to have every nation in the world that’s an Olympic nation,” Cathy Oerter said.

“It’s going to change every month. We’re going to have an Olympian (visitor) in every month. We’ll go around to the schools. We’ll have schoolchildren coming in. We might have Olympic sport demonstrations.”

It will open Tuesday through Saturday and hold evening events.

The foundation plans to get permits, start construction in the summer and have the first phase completed to celebrate the grand opening in February 2009.

Art of the Olympians eventually will be called the Al Oerter Center of Excellence after it’s up and running.

“My husband’s vision was to promote the culture of excellence and to teach our students how to be at their best, not just in sport, but in life,” Cathy said.

The foundation will have the opportunity to renew the lease for three additional five-year periods until 2028.

The city can cancel the lease 14 months from April 1 if the property has not been renovated and occupied. It can also extend the time if substantial progress had been made on the project.

“We could have done this anywhere in the world but Al wanted to do it here in Fort Myers because this is our home,” Cathy said.

“What we can bring to the community is, I think, beyond anybody’s comprehension.”

10,630 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Art of the Olympians exhibit opens as Summer Games start
By GLENN MILLER • [email protected] • August 9, 2008

Twelve hours earlier and half a world away from downtown Fort Myers, 91,000 fans gathered in Beijing's National Stadium for the opening ceremony of the Summer Games.

In downtown Fort Myers on Friday evening, several dozens folks gathered for an Art of the Olympians kickoff party at The Venu, a downtown nightclub, and on the First Street sidewalk in front of the club.

Florida Lt. Gov Jeff Kottkamp spoke about the meaning of having a gallery in downtown Fort Myers for art created by Olympic athletes.

"The Olympic spirit is the embodiment of excellence, persistence and teamwork," Kottkamp said. "The 2008 Art of the Olympians exhibition captures the sprit of Olympians by challenging us to carry the torch of hope."

An Art of the Olympians exhibit is being displayed in Beijing during the games. The exhibit consists of replicas of art work that had been displayed in the Robert Rauschenberg Gallery on the Edison College campus earlier this summer.

The Venu was crowded Friday well into the evening during NBC's delayed broadcast of the opening ceremonies. Patrons often burst into applause at points during the show.

North Fort Myers resident Janie Hemingway, who described herself as a philosopher and artist, was captivated by the Chinese production.

"Brilliant," said Hemingway, who was standing on the sidewalk and watching on a screen set up outside the bar.

She believes the artistry displayed in the ceremonies was "moving and genuine."

It spoke, she believes, to human potential.

"It shows what we can do," Hemingway said.

Lee County commissioner Bob Janes attended the party and knows that Fort Myers resident Lin Bochette is in China promoting Art of the Olympians and Fort Myers. Janes believes Bochette's mission will help.

"Absolutely," Janes said. "Spread the word. It will be an international location."

Jeff Mielke, executive director of the Lee County Sports Authority, was at the party and also enthused about the potential impact of the show traveling to Beijing.

"It's huge," Mielke said., "The exposure we're getting over there is phenomenal. This is going to be a springboard."

Gabrielle Oerter, the executive director of Art of the Olympians, hopes to have the gallery open in its downtown location by the end of 2009.
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