Al Oerter’s art museum opens, and Olympians give their support
Masters thrower Ed Burke sent a note to his Olympian friends and CCâ€™d a copy to me (an honor in itself). Ed writes about the opening of Al Oerterâ€™s Art of the Olympians Museum in Fort Myers, Florida:Â â€śOlympians,Â this is a project begun by Al Oerter and is being carried through to fruition by his wife of 25 years, Cathy.Â Â It honors the artistic talents of Olympians as it engages youth in the essence of Olympism. Got talent?Â Got energy? Want to display your work with your peers of the Olympiads? Contact Cathy Oerter.â€ť Roald Bradstock, the British Olympian and artist, also was present.Â He wrote me:Â â€śMuseum is really beautiful. It is a shame Al is no longer here to see the realization of his dream.â€ť The museum Web site is gorgeous, too.
Hereâ€™s the story, in case the link goes dark:
Downtown Fort Myers museum shows off Olympian art
Showcase set to open today
By CHARLES RUNNELLS
firstname.lastname@example.orgMind. Body. Spirit.
In ancient times, The Olympics championed that lofty, well-rounded ideal. Competitors strived for excellence in sports, but also in music, poetry and art. The tradition continued when the modern Olympics started in 1896.
Fast forward to 2010 and the upcoming winter Olympics, and you wonâ€™t find any gold medals handed out for painting or calligraphy.
Still, that doesnâ€™t mean Olympians donâ€™t strive for excellence outside of the sports arena.
The new Art of the Olympians museum wants to show visitors that the mind-body-spirit ideal is alive and well and on display here in Fort Myers.
â€śThe Greeks had it right,â€ť says museum co-founder Cathy Oerter. â€śThey wanted to create the perfect citizen.â€ť
The downtown Fort Myers museum opens today in the former City Pier Building with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The event features cocktails, dancing performances and special guests such as Olympic javelin thrower Roald Bradstock.
The museum and gallery features paintings, sculpture, photos and other art by Olympians from the United States, Italy, Australia, Puerto Rico and other countries.
Art of the Olympians was the dream of Oerterâ€™s late husband, Olympics discus champion Al Oerter, who died in 2007 after working on the project for about two years.
In the early days, Oerterâ€™s famous name opened many doors for the museum project â€“ including the rare right to use the Olympics logo and sell Olympics merchandise. He also helped pull in paintings, sculpture and other artwork by major athletes such as sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner and ice skater Peggy Fleming.
Organizers and the United States Olympic Committee claim the museum could generate $25 million for the Southwest Florida economy every year. That would come largely through visiting Olympics fans, Olympians and Olympic governing bodies from more than 200 countries.
Lydia Black, director of the Alliance for the Arts, certainly thinks the museum could be a big national and international draw â€“ especially when it gets permission to fly the Olympic flag over the Caloosahatchee River.
â€śIt will be a symbol of what they can offer,â€ť Black says. â€śThose rings represent a global community.â€ť
Organizers originally planned a $1.8 million museum, but theyâ€™ve since scaled that back (the museum may eventually move elsewhere in downtown Fort Myers). They spent about $500,000 renovating the new building, according to local decathlon and bobsled champion Liston Bochette III.
The museum is housed in the white-and-beige City Pier Building across from Harborside Event Center. Painted ribbons ring the building in Olympics colors.
Organizers are calling this a â€śsoft openingâ€ť â€“ although all the art and most other features are already up and running. A grand opening will follow sometime this spring.
Between now and then, organizers plan to work out details of upcoming art shows, school programs, educational programs and guest speakers (Olympic athletes will speak there from time to time).
Still to come, for example, is a motion-activated audio system that lets people hear prerecorded narration when they step in front of artwork.
That doesnâ€™t mean there isnâ€™t already plenty to impress at the museum â€“ particularly in the upstairs art gallery loaded with Olympian art. The roomâ€™s modern design features ambient and track lighting, clean lines and a stunning view of the Caloosahatchee River.
Downstairs, youâ€™ll find a coffee shop, a small Olympics memorabilia museum, a multipurpose room and a gift shop.
Cathy Oerter says she and other organizers wanted the museum to be impressive.
â€śThat was Alâ€™s hope,â€ť Oerter says. â€śThat this would be as Olympic an experience as possible.â€ť
Her husband isnâ€™t around to see his idea come to fruition, but Cathy Oerter says heâ€™d be pleased.
The project has taken four years to complete, she says, and sometimes itâ€™s hard to believe itâ€™s finally here.
â€śItâ€™s a happy time,â€ť Oerter says. â€śEvery time I walk in the door, I smile.â€ť
â€˘ What: Opening of the Art of the Olympians museum
â€˘ When: Reception and ribbon cutting from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. today. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
â€˘ Where: The former City Pier Building, 1300 Hendry Street, downtown Fort Myers
â€˘ Admission: $8 (suggested), $4 for children
â€˘ Info: Call 332-5055 or go to artoftheolympians.com
The art and the Olympians
The new museum features art by 20 Olympians â€“ and more art is being added all the time.
Youâ€™ll find sculptures by Italian judo champ Emanuela Pierantozzi. Photographs by Australian swimming champion Shane Gould. Paintings by U.S. sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner and ice skater Peggy Fleming.
Sometimes â€“ but not always â€“ there are striking connections between the sport and the art.
Late discus thrower Al Oerter, for example, often used a discus to fling paint onto the canvas. The act mimicked the explosive nature of his sport, says wife Cathy Oerter.
â€śIt was an explosion of color,â€ť Oerter says.
Swiss fencer Jean-Blaise Evequoz paints like he fences. â€śHe is a quick painter,â€ť Oerter says. â€śAnd in fencing, he is very, very quick.â€ť
Gould â€“ go figure â€“ favors underwater photography. And U.S. luge champ Cameron Myler brings the feeling of speed to her own photos.
â€śHer images are blurry,â€ť Oerter says. â€śShe goes so fast, thatâ€™s how she sees the world.â€ť