Southwest Florida has three main art districts, as well as lots of other areas that contain pockets of galleries and art studios. The first of the region’s major art districts is the downtown Fort Myers River District.
The downtown Fort Myers River District is set on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. It is an historic setting that was once the winter home of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. It has been restored, complete with original brick roads, wide sidewalks and old-fashioned lampposts. And it now boasts of a unique collection of 14 galleries and art boutiques, all within four blocks of each other. They are Art League of Fort Myers Gallery, Art of the Olympians, Arts for ACT Gallery, Coloring the World, daas Gallery, Green-n-Groovy Gallery and Eco-Boutique, Enjewel, HOWL Gallery/Tattoo, In One Instant Gallery of Photography, Lovegrove Gallery, Mad Hatter Galleries, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Space 39 and Syzygy Gallery.
These galleries and boutiques are nestled amidst excellent restaurants, exciting night spots, museums devoted to Olympic athletes and the city’s historical past, and performing art venues that include the Florida Repertory Theatre, the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center and the Laboratory Theater of Florida.
The aesthetics of the River District are enhanced by a formidable collection of public art that includes a Jim Sanborn light sculpture (Caloosahatchee Manuscripts), a gigundous 20×100 foot ceramic tile mural, 30-foot-tall modern art sculptures (Albert Paley’s Naiad and soon, David Black’s Fire Dance), representational sculptures dedicated to Fort Myers’ historical past (Uncommon Friends and Clayton), an American bald eagle carved from the stump of a condemned 200-year-old oak, and a 30,000-square-foot outdoor art installation called Parallel Park that has converted the 5-story Lee County Justice Center Parking Garage into an ever-changing, moving work of fine art.
The downtown Fort Myers art district will only get better in time as the City of Fort Myers adds a new 40,000-square-foot public library (whose Ionic columns will match those of the neoclassic revival Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center), a picturesque 1.8 water basin, a 12-story 220-room convention quality hotel, an expanded 160,000-square foot event center and more art galleries, shops and restaurants collectively designed to convert the River District into a year-round convention and tourist destination.
Part 3 will introduce you to the galleries that make Naples Fifth Avenue South the area’s most prestigious art district.