Happy Fourth of July! On this day when we commemorate the 241st anniversary of our independence, I want to bring you images of some of the flags I’ve painted over the years.
One of my favorite flags hung in Concourse Southwest Florida International Airport for more than three years. It measured 8 by 10 feet, and I painted the billboard-size flag during a live ceremony at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre on September 11, 2009. It was the first thing new arrivals saw when then came through the gates in Concourse D, and served as a reminder of the reasons that all travelers are subjected to enhanced security measures in our post-9/11 world. More than 22 million passengers passed through RSW between 2009 and 2011, so lots of folks had the opportunity to see Remember 9/11 and dwell on its message.
After that, I participated in the Honor, Country & Heroism exhibition that the Alliance for the Arts hung in the hallways leading to both concourses. (My painting was titled Shine On.)
It was also my honor and pleasure to paint flags in advance of Independence Day that were displayed in the storefront windows at the Franklin Shops of First in the downtown Fort Myers River District. One such flag was a collaborative piece I did with the store’s patrons to promote a Pride & Patriotism performance that was later held at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College. Pride & Patriotism of Lee County is an organization that works in partnership with the Southwest Florida Symphony, all public schools in Lee County, and various veterans’ organizations to promote the spirit of patriotism in schools and our community.
But my biggest patriotic undertaking involved giving all of Southwest Florida a chance to honor the memory of those who died during on 9/11 during the weeks leading up to the tenth anniversary of the attacks.
It all started on June 17, 2011, with a ceremony that took place, appropriately enough, at Southwest Florida International Airport. I called the community-wide, community-based art project “Remember 9/11 Tenth Year,” and between the June 17th launch and September 11, 2011, I traveled throughout southwest Florida to give residents and visitors an opportunity to paint the names of the victims on another billboard size canvas. Each stop became a cathartic event during which attendees shared emotional stories about people they lost and where they were when they first heard the news of the attacks.
I had intended to paint a soaring bald eagle over the names of the victims people had painted on the canvas, but I just couldn’t bring myself to cover up all those handpainted names. So instead, I painted a new billboard-size canvas of the eagle, and today it hangs in the library at Florida Gulf Coast University, as part of FGCU’s permanent public art collection.
Painting the American flag and participating in community-wide, community-based patriotic events fills me with pride and joy. So I hope that amidst the barbeques and beach time, the fireworks and beers, you take a few moments to ponder the meaning of the freedoms we enjoy in this great country of ours and what you, too, can do to make America great again.