D.J. Wilkins, the official Sculptor of Fort Myers, passed away in October 2021, leaving behind a legacy of artistic creations that have become an integral part of the Southwest Florida landscape. Throughout his career, Wilkins sculpted a number of iconic pieces that are beloved by both locals and visitors alike.
Among his notable works is the 2nd Regiment Infantry Colored Troops memorial located in Centennial Park. This sculpture, which was incorporated into the new Caloosa Sound Amphitheater, pays tribute to the African American soldiers who served in the Civil War. The family of Florida panthers on Monroe Street is another example of Wilkins’ artistic prowess, capturing the spirit and grace of these majestic animals.
At the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Wilkins created stunning sculptures of Henry Ford and Thomas and Mina Edison, paying homage to the inventors and their impact on American history. The Iwo Jima Memorial in Cape Coral’s Eco Park on Veteran’s Parkway is another significant sculpture that Wilkins helped restore. Originally created by sculptor Felix de Weldon, Wilkins contributed to the refurbishment of the statue, preserving its historical significance for future generations.
However, Wilkins’ most well-known work is undoubtedly “Uncommon Friends,” a sculpture located in Centennial Park that depicts three legendary figures from Fort Myers history on a camping trip in the Everglades. The sculpture features inventor Thomas Edison, car manufacturer Henry Ford, and tire magnate Harvey Firestone, who were real-life friends and influential figures in the American industrial landscape. The plaque on the sculpture refers to them as “Fathers of the American Industrial 20th Century,” highlighting their groundbreaking contributions to American industry and innovation.
In recent news, there has been concern about the future of “Uncommon Friends” due to a potential removal of the fountain that is incorporated into the sculpture. Friends of the sculpture are advocating for its preservation, recognizing its significance as a beloved symbol of Fort Myers and a testament to Wilkins’ artistic talent.
Although Wilkins has passed away, his legacy lives on through the numerous sculptures and statues that he created during his career. His contributions to the Southwest Florida community will continue to be cherished for generations to come.
Wilkins’ talent and dedication to his craft earned him the title of the official Sculptor of Fort Myers in the 1980s, a distinction that reflects the impact he had on the artistic landscape of the city. His passion for his work shines through in the details of his sculptures, capturing the essence and spirit of the subjects he depicts.
In many ways, Wilkins’ art serves as a bridge between the past and present, capturing the essence of Fort Myers history and bringing it to life for contemporary audiences. His creations are not just static objects, but living representations of the people and events that have shaped the city over time.
The loss of Wilkins is undoubtedly felt by the Fort Myers community, but his artistic legacy will continue to inspire and captivate audiences for years to come. As his sculptures continue to stand as testaments to his talent and dedication, Wilkins will forever be remembered as a pivotal figure in the artistic landscape of Southwest Florida.