Jon Foote, an established architect, didn’t set out to be a beach artist. It just happened. He credits hurricane Wilma, which, in 2005, dumped a tremendous amount of debris on the pristine beach in Vero where he regularly took his 4 ½-year-old daughter to play and swim. The rubble included seaweed, weathered driftwood, cans, bottles, Styrofoam and plastic containers, fishing lines and shiny boards with protruding nails. From this accidental trove, Foote and his daughter, Whitney, built a tower measuring 14 by 20 feet. Being a savvy New Yorker, Whitney named it the “trash hotel.” That was the beginning of Foote’s experience with “repurposing art,” a discovered talent that has evolved into his creation of unique beach sculptures. “Building the trash hotel awakened the long-dormant sculptor in me, thus freeing me from the practicalities of architecture. The beach is a wonderful, ever-changing palette and resource to draw from,” he says.
This concept had roots in his childhood as the son of an architect who employed recycled and used products in his designs. Foote’s father, Jonathan Foote Sr., an adjunct professor of architecture at Yale University, was head of an architectural firm in New Haven, Connecticut. He was noted for his innovative reuse of indigenous hand-hewn timbers and stone and the sensitive siting of buildings in their natural environments. His houses showcased wood beams, floors and wainscoting. Early on, the younger Foote worked with his father as an apprentice carpenter, learning the skills with ease. From the age of 10, he built models and drew as-built buildings.
In 1982, he graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and architecture.
Then it was on to Hawaii for a two-year stint as an associate at an architectural firm. After that, he worked in Livingston, Montana, joining an architecture firm started by his father, where he was involved in construction and marketing. Foote Jr. says, “Our signature was reusing old materials. We had a fruitful four years together.”