Don’t count out Louis Kahn’s floating concert hall just yet. The 42-year-old Point Counterpoint II has found a new life in Florida, only a year after fears were raised that the boat might have to be scuttled.
Although the speed of the 195-foot-long, 38-foot-wide boat tops out at a measly six to eight knots, the seagoing vessel has still managed to perform all over the world. The Point Counterpoint II lies flat, a stark departure from Kahn’s distinctive use of striking geometric forms in his buildings, but also includes a hydraulic-powered steel cover capable of rising 25 feet into the air, topping the barge with a center stage.
The American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO), founded in 1957 by Robert Austin Boudreau, has called Kahn’s maritime arts center home since 1976. Kahn and Boudreau were personal friends and discussed replacing the first Point Counterpoint (a repurposed barge incapable of independent movement) throughout the 1960s. The resulting Point Counterpoint II, designed by Kahn, eventually set sail in 1976 for a 76-city tour as excitement for the Bicentennial was reaching a fever pitch—two years after Kahn’s death in 1974.
By AWSO’s 2017 tour, 91-year-old Boudreau had been looking to step down as director for some time, and without a successor lined up, he put the boat on the market. Following a bidding war to lure the boat to a new permanent home between the city of Kingston in upstate New York and a private entity in Florida, the concert hall went to the latter and has since been brought to Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County. Boudreau blames the high cost of towing the boat up to the Great Lakes to get to Kingston in part for his selection of the Florida bidder, claiming that it would have cost over a $100,000 to comply with the Coast Guard’s regulations.
In Boudreau’s view, if the boat isn’t serving the community, it might as well be scrapped. That’s part of the reason that Point Counterpoint II will become a center for music education for local children, including those from Pahokee, one of the poorest communities in Florida. For Boudreau, who grew up on a chicken farm in Massachusetts during the Great Depression, a music scholarship was his ticket to college, and now he hopes to guide hundreds of students out of poverty and into college through music in much the same way.
But maintaining the educational programming aboard Point Counterpoint II will require fundraising. This year, Boudreau has pledged $50,000 from his own pocket to kickstart an endowment. He acknowledges that he won’t be around forever, and so the maestro is looking to raise $1 million to make sure that Point Counterpoint II will continue to live on as a public institution.