5 Who Make a Difference
Fort Myers River District
Terry tincher opened space 39 Gallery in downtown Fort Myers in 2006, around the same time the area was dubbed “the River District.” In 2007, the city began a streetscape project that would result in beautiful brick-pavered streets—three years later. In the meantime, construction barrels and detours didn’t do much for business.
So in October 2008, Tincher and a few other art gallery owners decided to lure the crowds back with Art Walk, a free, self-guided tour of area galleries, museums and shops, paired with local entertainment, the first Friday of each month.
“Initially, our intention was to bring down a younger, more avant-garde crowd from the university and town,” says Tincher. “It really brought the older restaurant crowd that really made a big difference.”
Tincher says as many as 4,000 people come for Art Walk, which offers great exposure for the new and emerging artists he features at Space 39. “From old masters, European-style paintings to minimalist, field-of-color-style works, we get to show it all. We’re building the market for fine art in Fort Myers.”
Tincher says traffic through his gallery increases 95 percent during Art Walk compared with other Friday nights. The event is so popular that it now draws co-eds, senior citizens and everyone in between, and has added an outdoor art fair on Saturday afternoons during season.
Patti Price, who co-owns the Morgan House restaurant with her husband, Michael, is relocating next door to Space 39 this month. Art Walk has been the best event for boosting business.
“Terry’s a great guy. He feeds us guests, and we in turn tell them to go visit the gallery,” she says. “We even display art in our restaurant from local artists. I’ve had people from Art Walk come back on a Monday or Tuesday night for dinner.”
Success breeds success. “The more people who come downtown, the more fun a place it is going to be,” Tincher says. “It looks so beautiful. The new brick streets are in. The buildings are rehabbed. There are amazing things happening—a lot of good vibes, a good spirit for downtown.”
Founder/President of www.iwannahelp.net, Naples
Maternity leave changed Rosalia Podolak’s life in more than the expected ways. Not only did she become Mom to Giulianna, now two, but she created a nonprofit organization that she became so passionate about that she recently left her banking career behind.
“I realized I not only wanted to be a mentor for [Giulianna], but I wanted to help out the community,” says Podolak, who was already no stranger to volunteerism. After watching Oprah’s Big Give reality TV series, she launched www.iwannahelp.net, a local charities directory that streamlines the volunteering process. “That’s where I started a whole new life,” she says. “Within a year, I had over 1,600 contacts and over 70 nonprofit organizations.”
After hearing about a Naples boy who needed a bone marrow transplant, she held a fundraiser for him and began accepting nominations on her website from others in need. Podolak teamed up with The Lutgert Cos. last October to hold monthly Neighbors Helping Neighbors fundraisers at Mercato in Naples during season.
They’ve raised nearly $30,000 to help with six people’s medical expenses. One recipient was Lisa Wilk, 47, a Naples teacher in need of a kidney donor. “She’s absolutely fantastic,” Wilk says of Podolak. “It’s like we’ve known each other our whole lives, and we’ve only known each other a year. She’s told me this is her calling, and she really means it.”
Podolak knows plenty of local people need help and is hopeful they’ll find her website. “Once I got a taste for that, it was fueling a fire that had been lit inside me,” she says. “I was making a difference in people’s lives, not just taking up space in this world.”
The cambier park band shell. The Art League of Marco Island. Chops City Grill on Fifth Avenue South. These are just a few of the renovations and original projects through which architect David Corban is making his mark on Naples and surrounding areas. The buildings stand out from the crowd of Mediterranean designs with a more contemporary look. But is he trying to change Naples’ skyline with sleek modern lines?
“I don’t really go into a project thinking about a style,” Corban says. “Style has to do with decoration. If you do a building that’s well detailed, responds to the environment and the client, then you don’t have to add decoration to it.”
That is evident in his Haldeman Creek home. It’s rectangular with clean lines that jut out over a boat dock. The house has a two-story wall of windows and an outdoor movable shade structure suspended by wires above a deck. Corban reused 30 percent of the original cypress wood from the site’s former boat house.
“This house is an updated Old Florida, rendered in a more 21st century way,” he says. “A lot of people think modern architecture is futuristic, is new, but really it’s not. Good contemporary architecture looks to the past, not for style but for functionality. I want my projects to feel like Florida.”
His designs include large overhangs to keep the rain and sun out, and windows that open when air conditioning isn’t necessary. Requests for Mediterranean come less often these days. “The tide is shifting toward me,” he says. “My impact is getting people to recognize that architecture is something that should be thought about. It’s not just a product.”
Michael and Maureen Valiquette
Chair and Vice-Chair, PURRE Water Coalition, Sanibel
Michael and maureen Valiquette aren’t professional environmentalists. They’re busy with their Sandcastle Construction Co., but they couldn’t ignore what was happening in 2005 as the canal water behind their home became coated with scum, and fish and sea grass began to die.
“We couldn’t find out from the local people what was going on,” Maureen says. “When we moved here, the water was green. Now, it’s tea color.”
So they educated themselves about stormwater runoff and discharges from Lake Okeechobee linked to red tide and algal blooms. Then they held a “Save Our Waters” community forum that drew 500 people. It led to the creation of the grassroots PURRE Water Coalition.
PURRE raised enough money through membership dues (www.purre.org) and fundraisers to hire one employee and, temporarily, a lobbyist.
“Our original mission was to raise awareness so existing groups would band together and make a difference,” Michael says. “I didn’t realize I’d have to come up with solutions.”
PURRE was instrumental in convincing the South Florida Water Management District to stop renewing permits for the sugar industry to back-pump into Lake Okeechobee, which had increased the lake’s pollution. Even though releases continue today, Michael says the water behind his home is not suffering from red tide, dead sea grass or dead fish.
PURRE also helped get the District to continue supporting the purchase of U.S. Sugar lands that would help recreate a natural flow-way from the lake through the Everglades. The group also recently helped to get a harmful algal bloom bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
”I would encourage anybody who has a passion to fix something you know is wrong to go for it,” Maureen says. “You’d be amazed what two people can do.”