Most accounts of Fort Myers’ founding focus on cattlemen like Jake Summerlin and Capt. F.A. Hendry, uncommon friends Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, and “city fathers” like William H. Towles, Harvie Heitman and Walter Langford. But it is entirely possible that there would be no Fort Myers as we know it today without the involvement, input and impact of Fort Myers Founding Females. And to shine a light on the important, even heroic, contributions of icons like Tootie McGregor Terry, Flossie Hill and even Berne Davis, the Portrait and Figure Painters Society of SW Florida is partnering with art journalist and public art advocate Tom Hall to present an exciting new exhibition titled Fort Myers Founding Females.
"The purpose of the Fort Myers Founding Females Exhibition is to draw attention to the women who helped transform Fort Myers from a frontier settlement and rough-and-tumble cow town into a modern-day city at a time when girls and young women growing up in Lee County are searching for examples of real-life women who have helped shape their community in the areas of business, commerce, tourism and civic leadership," states the Call to Artists.
Announcement of the exhibit follows last week's release of the Women’s Media Center's 2013 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report. Prepared by Diana Mitsu Klos, the survey not only details the pervasive gender disparity faced by women in the media, business, and institutions that exert the greatest influences on American culture, it demonstrates that this inequality is impacting negatively on new generations of women. Among other troubling conclusions, the report states that:
- By six, girls are already beginning to see themselves as sex objects based on a combination of media influence and maternal parenting.
- Media not only informs, it forms self-images by providing explicit and tacit role models. The female characters popular with youth (on television, in films, and in video games) are typically sexualized and cast in roles that are subservient to men.
- Women are rarely portrayed as accomplished business, civic and political leaders. In this regard, women comprised only 9 percent of the directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012. Of the top grossing films of 2013, women accounted for only 16% of the writers, directors, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers, with just 28.4% of the speaking roles in the top 100 films going to women.
- The landscape is even bleaker when it comes to women being quoted as authoritative sources in news articles, which quoted women in a scant 19% of the news stories published in January and February of 2013. Just seven out of 100 honorees included in the Newsweek Daily Beast Digital Power Index were women.
- At this pace, women will not attain parity with men in leadership roles in government , politics, entrepreneurship and nonprofits until 2085.
Artists answering the call will select a Fort Myers Founding Female and render her portrait in any medium based on photographs culled by PFPS and Hall from the Southwest Florida Museum of History, Southwest Florida Historical Society, Florida State Photo Archive, Fort Myers Regional Library and other sources. The exhibition will initially be installed at The Linen Cottage on First Street in the downtown Fort Myers River District, where they will be viewed through November by people taking True Tours’ Fort Myers Founding Females historic walking tour. Beginning next season, the exhibition will travel to a number of select venues.
Membership in the Portrait and Figure Painters Society of SW Florida is encouraged, but not required for participation. While new work is preferred, previously exhibited portraits of founding females will be included in the exhibit. Please click here for a full prospectus of the exhibit, a roster of founding females and the curator's credentials.
The Portrait and Figure Painters Society of SW Florida fosters, enhances and upgrades aesthetics, culture, and technical knowledge of fine art portraiture and figurative work by instilling individuals with feelings of self-worth, positive attitudes, new possibilities, and help coping with change and caring. "We like to support this with scholarship programs for deserving and talented aspiring artists, affordable training and study opportunities assisted or provided by this organization," notes founder and president Renate Reuter. "We try to build bridges between communities, generations, and nationalities." Also known as PFPS, the Society was created the Society in October of 2007 to contribute to the community at large through educational programs and studies for students, aspiring and professional fine artists and the general public.