The von Liebig Art Center
The von Liebig Art Center is the permanent home of the Naples Art Association. A mainstay of the community, it is visited each year by approximately 100,000 guests who come to attend its changing exhibitions as well as art classes, workshops and lectures.
Location. The von Liebig Art Center is located at 585 Park Street in downtown Naples, on the northwest corner of Cambier Park. Just one block south of Fifth Avenue, it is within walking distance of exceptional European-style boutiques, high-end jewelry stores, and some of the finest ristorantes, bistros and outdoor cafes in all of southwest Florida, not to mention world-class art galleries such as New River Fine Art, gallery O and Sheldon Fine Art to the west and Call of Africa’s Native Visions Gallery and Shaw Gallery of Fine Art to the east.
Facility. The two-story art center contains 16,000 square feet of space, and houses a lobby gallery, a main exhibition gallery, four galleries-in-the-round, six studios, two collection storage vaults, a library resource center, gift shop, administrative offices and a catering kitchen. The front entry angles toward Fifth Avenue South, but the Center’s rear doors, which lead out to Bette Young Plaza, open onto Cambier Park in deference to the NAA’s promise to the Naples City Council that it wouldn’t “turn its back on Cambier Park” in the design and construction of the building.
Exhibitions. The von Liebig Art Center hosts changing exhibitions by regional, national and internationally-recognized artists, with a focus on Florida art.
Art Fairs and Festivals. From its home in The von Liebig Art Center, the Naples Art Association conducts high-quality, well-attended art fairs and festivals throughout the fall and winter season.
Art Classes, Workshops and Lectures. The von Liebig provides an extensive art education and lecture program that includes professional studio courses and workshops for both children and adults.
Cost: Admission to the center is free.
Telephone Number and Website.
- The Naples Art Association was formed in 1954 as a not-for-profit visual arts organization by local artists Grace Lake, George Rogers and Elsie Upham.
- The NAA did not begin searching for a location on which to build a permanent facility until 14 years later, in 1968.
- The search took 24 years.
- During this time, the NAA bounced from a storefront in old Naples, to another on Fifth Avenue North, and then to one on Fifth Avenue South. But there simply wasn’t enough space in any of those places for what the association — and the community – really needed.
- It took noted city planner Andre Duany to convince the Naples City Council that it needed to create space for the Naples Art Association and The Naples Players. “He shook his finger at them and said, ‘You have two great cultural organizations you’re going to lose from this city if you do not find space for them.'” recalls former NAA president Bette Young. “So they closed off a street for the Players and gave us the corner of Cambier Park.”
- Still, it required 80 meetings with various city planners before the Naples City Council finally voted in 1992 to lease the NAA an 8,000-square-foot tract of public land in Cambier Park on which to build a community arts center.
- Noted Naples architect Alfred French was hired to design the project, which cost $3.5 million to complete.
- The NAA obtained two $500,000 grants from the State of Florida Cultural Affairs Committee.
- To get the money, the NAA had to match the funds. The von Liebig Association stepped forward and made a $1,000,000 donation ($650,000 for the building and $350,000 as an endowment) on behalf of Suzanne and William J. von Liebig, for whom the building was named.
- The second largest donation, $400,000, came from The Frederick Watson Foundation, for whom the main exhibition gallery was named.
- The local arts community contributed the balance of the needed construction funds.
- The facility was officially dedicated and opened to the public, debt-free, on November 22, 1998.
- Said Young later, “You feel a certain excitement, and you feel achievement when it’s done. Wow, I really was a part of it. And it makes you feel pretty good — especially when a lot of people instrumental in this were already retired; we were going to play golf, bridge, sail. It was an opportunity. As far as I’m concerned, it is one of the better things I’ve done in life.”
- Its inaugural exhibition consisted of fifty works from its newly formed permanent collection of post-war American Art.