There have been many casualties of the downturn in southwest Florida’s economic fortunes. Just ask Jim Griffith.
When the founder and CEO of the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center began renovating the nearly 80-year-old former post office and federal courthouse on First Street, he dreamed of a horseshoe of second floor classrooms and artist studios looking out on a rooftop sculpture garden framed against a backdrop of the Caloosahatchee River. Their classes and workshops were supposed to be a “catalytic force” in promoting the arts and stimulating a new generation of visual and performing artists.
But when the real estate and construction markets tanked in 2007, donations slowed to a trickle and the Center’s building fund dried up. Today, the second floor of the Art Center remains a canvas of unrealized potential.
Well, visionary Janie Hemenway isn’t willing to wait for better economic times. The second floor may still be in a state of disrepair, but the SBDAC’s east wing isn’t. That’s where the 2011 nominee for the Lee County Alliance’s Art Teacher of the Year is setting up shop from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
On September 6, Hemenway will launch The East Wing Conservatory, a program designed to “foster art education until the second floor is done.”
The East Wing consists of three interlocking components.
First, it offers mixed media art classes (11-2:30), after-school youth art projects (3-4:30), and individual and family-oriented evening art programs (5-7 p.m.). You don’t need to be a professional artist to participate. These programs are open to the public.
“People have forgotten that Sidney & Berne Davis is a community Art Center,” Janie observes. “Everyone can participate. All they need is the desire to take a step beyond in creative expression.”
The second piece of The East Wing mosaic is an art show that’s scheduled for the last Wednesday night of the month. It will serve as a showcase for the art participants create all month long, “although the art show is open to everyone, not just people who took classes or enrolled in a mixed media project.”
The Building Fund Raffle Ticket is the third, but an equally important part of The East Wing initiative. “The raffle ticket lets everyone help complete the second floor, one brick at a time.”
For more information, please call the Art Center at 239-337-1933 or Janie Hemenway at 239-464-1408.