Downtown Clearwater is About To Get a Showplace
by Aaron R. Fodiman, Tampa Bay Magazine
The first thing that you should know about internationally acclaimed artist Robert Schoeller is that he is a genius. The second thing is that geniuses are very difficult people. They expect everyone to be as smart as they are and they forget they are geniuses while the rest of us are only human. This having been said, let's proceed to a transformation that is now occurring on Drew Street near Myrtle Avenue in downtown Clearwater.
About three years ago, Robert, our genius, saw an abandoned ice house for sale. He bought it and began drawing plans to convert it into a studio for him to work in and a gallery in which to display his art. That sounds simple enough doesn't it? But next, he bought the adjoining property that had once housed the fire department of Clearwater and had subsequently been converted into the office and workshop of a prospering air conditioning company, Robert saw that by acquiring this adjoining property he would have a large open area that he could convert into formal gardens and pools to enhance his studio.
One of the first chores to be completed was to dismantle all the ice-making equipment and remove it from the double-walled brick building. To Robert it sounded easy, but it took over two years for workmen to painstakingly remove the equipment piece by piece, so as not to damage the building.
Then there was a fire that destroyed some parts of the building and subsequently inspired Robert to install huge wooden beams for a wooden ceiling in these rooms. Why, in this day and age, wood beams, when steel is so much easier you may ask? Now remember, I told you Robert is a genius. He had decided to reconstruct this building in the style of a Venetian palace and that means wood beams to support a wood ceiling that would give his newly designed property the look and feel of one of Europe's great landmarks.
A rendering of the main entrance.
|To Robert, fantasy and beauty are everywhere. He sees that which most never even dream of. As you wander through the different levels of this once single-purpose building, Robert speaks of open areas, bridges, descending steps and architectural finishes. In his mind the image has formed.
Wanting stone windows that had to be made on location and to his exact specifications, he found two Austrians like himself who understood the skills needed to do in concrete what stone-masons centuries ago had done in their homeland. The design of the windows is intricate. They will be three-dimensional and are created to resemble ancient castles, yet still maintain a contemporary flair. They will never need painting--they are intended, like the brick with which the building was built, to age naturally, reflecting the passage of time and weather upon them.
Completion of Robert's studio palace is expected within a year, when he will open it to public view. He wants it to be an attraction, which will draw people in to discover its charms and secrets. All who pass by are sure to inquire, "What is that?" All who know are sure to reply, "That is Robert Schoeller's Palace, you've got to go in and see it." Robert takes pride and joy in the beauty of people and their surroundings. To fill this wonder of architecture with the creations of talented artisans from the last century, he already has brought unique antique furniture to this country from across Europe.
Austrian craftsmen, Franz Vogt and Martin Waibel,
shown with two of the stone windows individually built by them to Robert's specifications.
When one looks at a portrait by Schoeller you see, not just the subject, but Robert's view of them as well. He is not a camera; he must always add his own perspective to the canvas and the soul of those whom he paints upon it. Likewise, when the building on Drew Street is completed, Robert Schoeller will have made a statement about himself and the world he lives in and Clearwater will have an attraction that will draw hundreds to stand in awe of the talent and genius of Robert Schoeller. As you move through this homage to structural beauty you can't help but be impressed with Robert's attention to detail and his un bidding demand for perfection. He only wants from others that which he gives himself. Possibly a man born out of time, he still feels the need to create an environment that reflects the majesty and integrity of his art.