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Local artist Andrew Corke adds manatee installation to ‘Ding’ Darling

By Staff | May 31, 2017

Andrew Corke in the process of creating the manatee. PHOTO PROVIDED

Fort Myers artist Andrew Corke installed a manatee sculpture made entirely out of recycled tires on the outside wall of the Visitor & Education Center, near the restrooms at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge May 9.

The project, #LearningLav will incorporate simple messages and visual 3-D representations of sea turtles, fish, mangroves, manatees and birds. Corke is in the process of making the baby manatee which will be done in about two weeks.

“The whole idea is to get more people into the education center,” Corke said.

This isn’t the first piece Corke has made for “Ding.” In 2014, he donated an osprey made out of recycled bicycle tires for their annual “Upcycle! Art Fest.”

“The couple who bought it that year ended up donating it back, so that piece is actually a permanent piece at the refuge now,” Corke said.

Andrew Corke in the process of creating the manatee. PHOTO PROVIDED

Orignally, Corke got the idea of making art out of recyclable items in college for his senior show.

“My last name is Corke, so I started recycling wine corks as a joke because of my last name and it evolved. I kept finding better materials to work with and ultimately, tires were one of the best recyclable materials to use and there’s plenty of them. They’re actually not a very recyclable material. It sticks in the environment forever if you don’t get it out,” Corke said. “When I found a way to recycle it, I was happy to do so.

Corke recalls delving into art at a very young age. Growing up on Sanibel, he was exposed to artists such as Myra Roberts and Robert Rauschenberg, who he credits as inspirations.

“I remember wanting to be an artist from all the way back to elementary school. I had a lot of aspiring talent and people telling me that I was really good at art. I’d paint a painting and they’d send me to the principal’s office to go show the principal. I’m very creative and that continued in to high school, I took art electives and followed that path,” Corke said.

Eventually, Corke graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelors degree in art. Along the way, Corke has won numerous accolades for his work. Some recent awards include: third place in 2014 at the juried show at the “Upcycle! Art Fest” at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, first place at the 2013 “Rejectamenta” juried recycled art exhibition at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers and first place in the 2013 Southwest Florida Fine Craft Guild’s all-member show “Dimensions in Art” at the Von Liebig Art Center in Naples.

During his junior year of high school, Corke received an unexpected invitation: he was offered the opportunity to work as Darryl Pottorf’s studio assistant. Pottorf is a renowned artist on Captiva who worked closely with Robert Rauschenberg.

“My parents were Rauschenberg’s dentist and also Darryl’s. One day they mentioned that I was interested in art and they told my parents to bring me down to Captiva and see the place. I went out there in high school and Bob and Darryl were there, I hung out with them and they showed me the house and all the art. I made them a thank you card on the computer and they hired me after that,” he said.

Corke said that completing the manatee “sculptire” has opened a lot of doors for him. In the meantime, he has plans of working on more paintings this summer.

“Now that the manatee is done, I’ve got that urge to make art again. The manatee is making me want to finish all these other paintings,” Corke said.