Dream of floating Glades arts center towed away

Posted 9/3/20

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris FelkerPORT MAYACA — The Point Counterpoint II is propelled by a huge tugboat into the St. Lucie Locks at Port Mayaca on Thursday, Sept. 3, on its way to Pennsylvania. …

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Dream of floating Glades arts center towed away

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
PORT MAYACA — The Point Counterpoint II is propelled by a huge tugboat into the St. Lucie Locks at Port Mayaca on Thursday, Sept. 3, on its way to Pennsylvania.

PAHOKEE — Floridians, and particularly current schoolchildren and future generations in the Glades region of Palm Beach and adjoining counties, lost an opportunity that Philadelphians and other Northeasterners will gain instead.

The historic vessel Point Counterpoint II, a “floating arts center” built pre-1976 especially for the United States of America’s Bicentennial, was being towed out of the Pahokee Marina on Thursday morning, Sept. 3. The boat, technically a self-powered barge — which holds art gallery spaces, living quarters and facilities, a kitchen and a lounge below deck, plus a unique, acoustically perfect amphitheater that rises hydraulically up out of the deck for the projection of symphonic and other music — is leaving Florida, probably for good.

One of the stars of the nation’s Bicentennial celebration that was nationally televised from various American cities on the night of July 4, 1976, the PCII is now en route through the Okeechobee Waterway to the Atlantic. It’s being transported along the East Coast to Delaware Bay and up the Delaware River, destined for a more promising future as an active “floating arts center.”

Youth orchestra dream gone
That’s what it was intended to be here in Florida, permanently moored along the shore of Lake Okeechobee in the state-owned Pahokee Marina & Campground park … however, owner/conductor Robert A. Boudreau, 93, was not to see his dream of an Everglades wind orchestra come to fruition here. He’d conceived of a youth musical education program that was lyrically (but prematurely, as it turns out) called “Winds Over the Glades.” It was intended to lift youth all over South and Central Florida into musical careers with the promise of lucrative college scholarships and membership in an actual wind orchestra. But it never came to exist in all the time since the PCII was brought here in 2018.

He’s still breathing and quite well, he averred, still farming the family acreage near Mars, Penn., and raring to give the boat new breath.
In an interview Tuesday, Sept. 1, Boudreau explained not enough philanthropical support was demonstrated in Palm Beach County, but that mostly, local politics — Pahokee politics — kiboshed the dream.
Also, other opportunities arose, luckily, to breathe life back into the ship, he said. After all, the maestro is anxious to perpetuate his and the ship’s legacy.

Turmoil in Pahokee
Having heard about all the contention and controversy in Pahokee over the city’s sublease of the parkgrounds to Everglades Reserve Holdings LLC — which evidently now is dead in the water — Boudreau learned of a planned development in Philadelphia where the vessel and its history can be suitably rejuvenated. So now, the PCII will be renewed and become home to another generation of the American Winds Symphony Orchestra. The vessel, designed by famed architect Louis Kahn, will eventually be moored on the Delaware and become a centerpiece of a new venue on the historic Philly waterfront dubbed The Battery.
This project, facilitated by prominent Philadelphia developer Dean Adler, will now incorporate the storied history of the PCII, which was constructed by the Tidewater Corp. in Virgina Beach, Va., for a national tour of 76 cities during the Bicentennial year. The floating amphitheater also is intended to perpetuate a modern version of the Winds over the Mons program that Maestro Boudreau established 60-some years ago aboard her predecessor, on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. (That scholarship program/orchestra was going to be the model for “Winds Over the Glades.”)

Federal ‘Opportunity Zones’
It’s costing Adler around $140,000 to have the PCII brought to the Northeast. His planned development envisions transformation of a defunct power station on the Delaware River “into a more than 1 million-square-foot, mixed-use destination, which involves “repurposing of the 1920s-era power plant and waterfront expansion,” according to CPExecutive.com, published in Philadelphia (“CP” is short for “Commercial Property”).
The 15 acres he’s working on is within one of several thousand designated federal “Opportunity Zones” across the nation. (The entire Glades region of Palm Beach County is one, too, notably.)
Although things didn’t work out in the Glades, Boudreau is still grateful to those who saw and shared his dream, even if it didn’t come true.

In the interview Tuesday, he lamented the lost chance for Florida.
“I am so sorry that we weren’t able to do something for our young people of that area,” Boudreau said, “but that’s the way the world is today. And all those (Glades) farmers are having such problems as well, as I understand.”

Destination was Long Island
How did this opportunity arise for an alternative rebirth of the PCII in Pennyslvania?
“Louis Kahn had a son, Nathaniel Kahn, and he has wanted very much to have that floating arts center back in Philadelphia, where his father was,” Boudreau explained. Kahn, a famous 20th century American architect, died suddenly in 1974, two years before the Point Counterpoint II that he designed was launched.
“What happened was, we (he and wife Kathleen) got a call from a couple of (entrepreneurs) out of Long Island … a couple of months ago. They wanted to have a stage; they were developing this area, near Sag Harbor, so we visited with them several months ago. And then lo and behold, there’s this gentleman … (Adler), and he was at a meeting with this architect we had met in terms of the Long Island situation.
“He said, ‘I’m looking for a barge with a stage that I can use because I want to create a place for people to come for theater.’ And also, there is a large black community right next to this area, and I want to do things for them as well. And so these architects said, ‘Oh, we’re talking with Boudreau about his barge,’ and that’s how all this got started.
“It’s quite a story, actually. He (Adler) said, ‘Robert, I want you to be in charge of all the new concert programs from the boat,’ and my wife said, ‘I’m here!’ You know, I’m in my 94th year right now, just finished my 93rd year in April.
“And I feel fine and I’m raring to go!
“Just know that all the good people who helped us in Pahokee and the surrounding area, we’re indebted to them,” Boudreau said, his voice breaking.

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