Fort Myers Art Walk celebrates its 5-year anniversary on Friday, October 4. In addition to new exhibits in each of the River District's art galleries, the night's festivities will include live art, a community paint, face painting, street performers, a stilt walker, raffles and more. With exciting venues like the Art League of Fort Myers on Monroe, Articulture Gallery & Tattoo Studio, Arts for ACT Gallery & Boutique, Enjewel, Ocasiocasa Studio Gallery, Reverie & Rock Art Gallery, the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center and UNIT A Contemporary Art Space on Evans Avenue, there’s much to sample and savor. [Click here to see the full schedule of exhibits, events and activities taking place on October 4.]
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) in order to lure people back downtown after four years of street construction and road closures chased thousands of potential shoppers and diners to locations like Gulf Coast Town Center, Coconut Point and Miromar.
"Human beings are creatures of habit," observed Xavier Brignoni, who along with daas Gallery partner David Acevedo was among Art Walk's early organizers. "During the four years it took to complete the Downtown Utility Replacement and Streetscape Improvements projects, people were soured on the River District as a shopping or dining destination. In the interim, they formed habits that now have them thinking of Gulf Coast Town Center, Coconut Point Mall and other places when they are planning an afternoon or evening out. "Our challenge was to break those habits. It’s not only the mall and going to church. You can do other things too. The downtown is different. It’s something that is like a mall but outdoors and with a lot of history associated with it. Especially in this economy, you don’t have to spend too much money to have a good time because the businesses here are not franchises."
Recognizing that we live today in an event-driven culture, Kuser, Goode, Greg Knezevich of La Casa del Arte (which has since relocated to Miami), HOWL Gallery/Tattoo's Andy Howl (now on 41 and Colonial across from Edison Mall), Acevedo and Brignoni realized they needed a recurring monthly event that would give people an excuse to visit the River District. And so, Art Walk was born.
While thousands of Lee and Collier residents still haven't ventured downtown in years, the River District's reputation as hip, trendy destination where history meets cutting edge, hip-hop-inspired art and cultural destinations like UNIT A Contemporary Art Space, Reverie and Rock Art Gallery, Arts for ACT and the Davis Art Center is spreading far and wide. In fact, so many people flock to the River District during season that the River District Alliance is considering closing First Street and converting the monthly event into a block party. And that's exactly what they've done for October's five-year anniversary.
Part of Art Walk's success is attributable to the contribution made by the River District restaurants and lounges to the casual, social atmosphere associated with the evetn. 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.
If you've been to Art Walk, then you already know that the 5-year celebration is not to be missed. And if you've never been to Art Walk before, this would be a great time to see for yourself why thousands of local residents and out-of-towners make the Downtown Fort Myers River District their First Friday destination of choice.