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Art Walk – The First Friday of Each Month

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034 (2)There are more than a dozen art galleries concentrated within four blocks of  the downtown Fort Myers River District, and on the first Friday of each month, rain or shine, thousands of art lovers stroll along Broadway, First, Hendry and Jackson streets taking in new art exhibitions, art demonstrations and meet-the-artist receptions. It’s called Art Walk, and it’s an event that has revitalized the downtown and kindled in Fort Myers residents and visitors a new passion for and understanding of both the visual and performing arts.

In anticipation of each month’s Art Walk, the River District art galleries locate, curate and exhibit exciting new artists and the latest in contemporary to avant-garde oils, acrylics, watercolors, mixed media, collage, sculpture, art jewelry and fine crafts. All the galleries host receptions for their featured artists, and many arrange for demonstrations of everything and anything artful (such as the lost art of repoussage, art cards, Zentangle, glass fusion, bead making and the creation of jewelry made from Tagua nuts).

The art stops include the Art League of Fort Myers on Monroe, Articulture Gallery & Tattoo, Arts for ACT Gallery, Enjewel, Ocasiocasa Studio Gallery, Reverie & Rock Art GallerySpace 39, The Franklin Shops on First, The Shoppes at Broadway, UNIT A Contemporary Art Space, and the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, which is known for its neoclassical revival architecture, graceful Ionic columns, and the Jim Sanborn light sculpture, Caloosahatchee Manuscripts, which bathes the building’s façade, limestone steps and surrounding sidewalks in lighted letters to the delight of the Art Walk crowd.

Art Walk begins at 6 p.m. and the galleries stay open to 10 or even later depending on the show and the crowd.

Art Walk is also characterized by live entertainment, spirits and great food. The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center provides a jazz band in its grand atrium, and the entire downtown is converted into a medley of live performances by diverse street musicians, some hired to play and others being “volunteers” who just want to add to the festive atmosphere of the occasion. But the musical highlight of the evening is the Friday Night Live free concert in Patio de Leon.

Ford's Garage during Art Walk 01Before, during and after Art Walk, the River District restaurants cater to the throng of hungry and thirsty art lovers. Ford’s Garage, The Firestone, Los Cabos Cantina, Morgan House Restaurant, French Connection Cafe’, Twisted Vine Bistro (formerly H2) United Cafe’, Bar and Bistro (formerly Cafe’ Matisse), Veranda, Ichiban Chinese & Japanese Cuisine, Downtown House of Pizza, What’s Up Dogs, The Oasis Restaurant, Starbucks Coffee, Hideaway Sports Bar, Spirits of Bacchus and The Cigar Bar all welcome Art Walkers with special menu items and convivial service. Spirits of Bacchus is also the scene of the Art Walk After Party, which begins at 10 and continues late into the night.

Horse Drawn Carriage 01 (4)Both as badges of honor and to promote the event, Art Walkers can obtain Art Walk buttons and tee-shirts (in red or black). The latter are available for a $12 donation at the Iberia Bank gallery showcase. Although they are not really necessary, each art stop stocks free maps showing the location of each gallery, boutique and other art stop, as well as the pick-up points of the free shuttle service furnished courtesy of Select Transportation, Inc.

Claudia Goode

Art Walk was conceived by a handful of local gallery owners and curators, including Claudia Goode (Arts for ACT) and Jamie Kuser (Reverie & Rock Art Gallery). It debuted in October, 2008 and has been growing in popularity ever since. It is now a River District Alliance event.

 

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