This is the second part of a two-part series identifying the two most significant historic exhibitions taking place in Southwest Florida in 2013. To read Part One of this series, please click here.
Fast forwarding to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center and Woody Hanson presented a blockbuster historic photo exhibit in April titled Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives. Put on in collaboration with Harvey A. Moore, Ph.D., Luke Roman, Amy Williams, Tracy Haun and Houston Cypress, the exhibition was a creative and engaging visual experience that revealed the personal and social relationships that informed two of Florida’s most diverse cultural communities from the 1880s to 1950, the pioneers of Fort Myers and Florida’s Seminole-Miccosukee Indians.
“Interpreting these parallel cultures is something I’ve wanted to do for some time,” said fifth-generation Fort Myers’ resident Woody Hanson at the opening. “The juxtaposition of life in Fort Myers, a young and prospering town, and life in the Everglades or the Big Cypress Swamp, where ancestral cultures have been a constant for time eternal, is unimaginable – but real.”
Hanson's family first planted its roots in Southwest Florida in 1884 when London-born Dr. Wm. Hanson and his wife, Julia Allen Hanson, opted to settle in Fort Myers rather than continue on to Cuba as they’d originally planned. Dr. Hanson became Thomas Edison’s physician and the Seminole-Miccosukee Indians’ doctor as well, and was also one of Fort Myers’ first real estate developers. Active in almost every movement or institution in Southwest Florida and beyond, Julia was called “the most beloved woman in Florida” upon her death in 1934.
Hanson's great-grandfather, W. Stanley Hanson, worked tirelessly to protect the Seminole-Miccosukee Indians from initiatives by both the United States and Florida to embrace white culture in derogation of their own traditions and heritage. To dispel myths about the tribe prevailing among politicians and the general public alike, Hanson launched his own campaign to offer a true portrait of his friends’ lives. With their permission, he recorded their lives in hundreds of photographs, writings and drawings, illuminating a world that had previously been invisible to outsiders.
The letters and writings collected by W. Stanley Hanson, including correspondence from Presidents and legendary industrialists, were passed to the late W. Stanley Hanson, Jr., founder of Hanson Real Estate Advisors (HREA), and his wife, Mary Ellen Hanson, the great grand daughter of Manuel A. Gonzalez, Fort Myers’ first settler. The Hanson Family Archives and HREA are led by the couple’s son, fifth-generation Fort Myers resident Woody Hanson.
For the Davis Art Center exhibition, Woody Hanson selected over two hundred images of early Fort Myers and its pioneers, as well as rare views of one of Florida’s most remote regions and the lives led by the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians who lived there.
Receiving honorable mentions for top historic exhibit honors are:
- Discovering Southwest Florida with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, a February-March exhibit in the Edison & Ford Winter Estates' Caretaker's Cottage that featured a collection of historic photographs of Edison and Ford’s favorite pastimes in Southwest Florida juxtaposed with contemporary photographs and artifacts from the Edison Ford Collection; and
- Dunbar Cultural Landmarks, which featured a guided trolley tour of the Dunbar Community's historical landmarks and publication of the new and improved 16-page edition of Dunbar Cultural Landmarks: A Fort Myers Community Self-Guided Tour, which seeks to resurrect community pride and spirit by reminding residents and visitors that Dunbar has a history and cultural heritage that is uniquely its own.
Both were Viva Florida 500 events.
Congratulations to ArtCalusa, Parallel Worlds Parallel Lives and all the other exhibitions throughout Southwest Florida that served to increase the knowledge of residents and visitors about our historic underpinnings.