Body shops are asked to clear coat and/or paint all the time for charitable causes and many of them are sculptures of animals. This movement began back in 1986 when fiberglass lions were painted in different colors and staged throughout the city of Zurich, Switzerland.
Two years later, the lions were replaced by cows. The "CowParade" later became a hugely successful international public art exhibit that has been featured in major cities throughout the world. These sculptures of cows were decorated by local artists, and distributed in public places such as train stations, museums and parks.
Since then, cities all over the world have gotten involved in these art projects to protect wildlife and raise money for animal preservation. In almost every case, they feature artwork and designs specific to the local culture, as well as city life and other relevant themes. After each exhibition in each city concludes, the statues are auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity. From Bears in Berlin to Crabs in Baltimore; Buffaloes in Buffalo, Sharks in San Jose and Cats in the Catskills, these animal sculptures are now in the thousands.
So, when a Florida body shop owner was asked to clear coat 50 Loggerhead sea turtles for a good cause, he wasn't surprised, because he had already painted statues of dolphins, gators and pelicans for other exhibitions.
The owner is JR Nocera, and the shop is Supreme Auto Collision in Naples, FL. To say the least, Nocera has never had any problems sticking his head out of his shell and telling the world about his 60,000 sq. ft. shop that takes up an entire city block. So, he surely wasn't going to hide in the sand when he was asked to paint 50 turtles gratis for the Turtles on the Town, a public art project and fundraiser on display in Naples and throughout Collier County.
Supreme Auto Collision is a one-stop shop, with a mechanical repair division, a car detailing department, a trim shop and even a Vespa scooter dealership in addition to being a body shop that fixes 200-300 cars every month while maintaining 13 DRPs. The shop is known for working on high-end vehicles, specifically Bentleys, Audis, BMWs, and Aston-Martins and is aluminum-ready, with its own separate clean room.
With 30 employees, including his two nephews, Nocera, 48 is a second-generation shop owner with a son (age 10) who will hopefully get into the business one day.
"My dad had a shop and we had a lot of mechanics in my family," Nocera said. "My father still works here at age 73 and my brother Jimmy also works here. I started when I was 16 and quickly I knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. Most kids at age 16 don't know what they want to do, but I had my path right then and there. I hope my youngest can get into this industry one day, because I know that my daughter isn't at all interested, which is fine."
All of the turtles will be auctioned at a gala later this Spring, with proceeds to benefit the three non-profit organizations involved in the exhibition — the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Community Foundation of Collier County and the United Arts Council of Collier County. The project began as a way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the community foundation, but once the project grew, more people swam into the project.
The 50 turtles were molded of fiberglass-reinforced polyester from an original bronze sculpture, and they stand about five ft. tall. It takes a community of many different people and organizations contributing different things to make a project of this size happen. Among those contributing were 50 patrons who gave $5,000 each to sponsor a turtle. While many of these patrons are businesses that have their sponsored turtles on site for the public exhibition, other patrons are individuals and those sculptures are on exhibit at area parks and non-profits.
Even though his shop is busy all the time, Nocera took the time to clear coat all of the 50 turtles, with the product donated by Axalta, the paint he uses on every vehicle he repairs.
“It lays out real sweet,” Nocera said. “Those artists put so much time into these amazing creations, so we made sure that we did a great job for them. It was a team effort and all of our people stepped up. This is like the fourth time we've been asked to do something like this and each time I just can't say no."
Without compromising his cycle time, Nocera called upon his crew to work a little overtime and get the turtles ready to roll onto the streets of Collier County.
"They came out beautifully and we're happy that we were able to be part of this community effort. I don't know what they're going to ask us to paint next--maybe manatees? Whatever it is, we'll be there!"