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Visionaries of the Visual Arts Award 2018

BY January 17, 2018

The Fifth Annual Visionary of the Visual Arts Award and benefit dinner was held on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, with 125 attending at the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club. The evening program began at 6:30 and concluded by 9:00. 

The expenses of the evening were fully underwritten by the Harmon-Meek Gallery. The ticket sales, table patrons, program advertising, and unsolicited donations raised over $40,000 for the Harmon-Meek Gallery Fund at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.   This money raised directly benefits children’s art programs at non-profits in Collier County through a donor advised fund with Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  The money is allocated based on the grant requests from area nonprofit organizations for specific art related programing particularly those involving children.  This is a very special component of the evening as CEO’s from those non-profits briefly speak about the impact of art in the lives of the children.

This year’s recipients of grants for children’s art programs: David Lawrence Center, Grace Place for Children & Families and Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida.

The Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida will use their grant from the Harmon-Meek Gallery Fund at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to fund “Art in the Park” an event this spring giving Girl Scout Juniors and Cadettes (grades 5 – 8) the opportunity to unleash their inner artist in a fun, casual outdoor environment.  The event will be offered to the girls free of charge, with all art supplies and light refreshments provided.  Harmon-Meek Gallery is pleased to sponsor an opportunity for so many young girls in our community to explore their artistic talents. 

Of the grant received from this event in the past Scott Burgess, CEO of David Lawrence Center said:  “Engaging youth who are struggling in creative practices is extremely important in their social, emotional and cognitive development. Research suggests that artistic contemplation and expression can improve problem solving, increase focus, interpersonal skills and feelings of empathy while reducing stress levels. We are thrilled to partner with the Meek Family on this opportunity to brighten futures in our community by teaching these children how to positively channel their emotions through art.”

This year’s keynote speaker was H. Alexander Rich, Ph. D., Director of Galleries & Exhibitions, Assistant Professor of Art History, Art History Program Director, Florida Southern College and Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, FL.

This year’s honorees were Patty Baker, Susan H. Earl and Anne B. Kerr, Ph. D. and each received a small Hunt Slonem watercolor he specially created for the award.

Past Recipients of the Visionaries of the Visual Arts Award are:

2014 – Joan Loos, Ginny Small and Jennie Lee Zipperer

2015 – Ray Staffeldt, Richard Tooke, and Mary Wasmer

2016 – Curtis Finch, Donald Miller, and Dolph von Arx

2017 –  Paul Corddry, Sam Hamra, and John Hushon

This award is intended to recognize individuals who may not have been recognized previously for their efforts in promoting the visual arts. Many of our recipients have donated collections of works to universities and museums, served on boards of art museums, or made other significant contributions to the visual arts.

About the recipients:

Patty Baker

It is impossible to separate Patty and Jay Baker for their combined contributions to the visual arts, but we did anyway. In large part because my sister and I wanted to focus on honoring three women who have supported the visual arts this year.

Patty’s love for the arts began at an early age. She graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College in New York with a degree in art history and theater. Patty’s life passion for both visual and performing arts along with her philanthropic nature has helped the continued growth and importance of the arts in our community.

Patty and Jay Baker have made significant contributions to the Naples Art Association and to our communities first Fine Art Museum, which now bears their name.

Susan H. Earl

Susan Earl’s interest in art stems from childhood and has contributed to the visual arts when she lived in Columbus as well as here in Naples. In Columbus, Susan served on the Women’s Board of the Columbus Museum of Art. She also joined the committee called Beaux Arts that planned fundraisers for the Museum.

In Naples, Susan became a member of the Naples Art Association and served on the Board of Director as a Vice President. For many years, she chaired the Education Collection Committee. As Vice President of the Board of Directors, Susan headed the committee to find new Board members.

After Susan completed her terms on the boards, she continued to serve the Naples Art Association by volunteering as Librarian for about 2 years. Susan Earl has contributed to our community and the visual arts in many ways, including a kinetic sculpture at the Naples Zoo.  It is also another way to engage children in art as is the theme of the evening.

Anne B. Kerr, Ph.D.

Dr. Anne Kerr, President of Florida Southern College, was recognized for her efforts and leadership in the partnership between Florida Southern College and the Polk Museum of Art in 2017.  This effort not only helped a struggling museum, but Anne’s vision for the Polk Museum is helping to create a world-class academic art museum. This new stronger relationship between the college and the museum, will serve students, artists, and the community.

Anne has had a 25-year career in college and university administration. During her time at Florida Southern College, she has masterminded a renaissance that has brought unprecedented national and international recognition to the school, catapulting FSC to the ranks of our nation’s best small private colleges.

The featured artist at this event was Jessica Daryl Winer.  Each of the tables had a Jessica Daryl Winer watercolor as centerpiece.  Winer paints colorful scenes of her native New York City, many of which depict the exciting world of the performing arts, back in 2016. Winer’s first love is watercolor and her work on canvas reflects this with her unique technique in capturing the feel of watercolor using acrylic.  Public installations include: Dance Space in the lobby of the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, west of Lincoln Center and “Curtain Call” an acrylic-on-canvas mural commissioned as the centerpiece of the Times Square Visitors Center in the restored Embassy Theatre. Her public installation of eighteen suspended, kinetic constructions, Dancing on Air was exhibited at the Times Square Visitors Center from 2002-04.

Harmon-Meek Gallery Fund at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Harmon-Meek Gallery has engaged children in the visual arts for over 40 years.  The Gallery has hosted thousands of students over the years and donated over $100,000 to children’s art programs in our community.  In 2013, The Harmon-Meek Gallery established a donor advised fund with Southwest Florida Community Foundation to benefit art programs for at-risk youth in our region through grants to established local nonprofit organizations.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s role has evolved over the years since its founding in 1976, utilizing our firsthand knowledge of community needs to be one of the largest granting foundations in the region.  The Foundation has more than $75 million in assets, has granted more than $56,000,000 to nonprofit organizations, and is governed by an engaged group of community leaders who oversees the strategic direction of the Foundation.  The board provides guidance and support in all areas from fund development, asset and investment management, impact grants, and program measurement assuring donors’ return on investment.

The Foundation’s work is accomplished through the support of donors today and those who plan for the future through the power of endowment. The Foundation’s giving tools can often provide income and estate tax advantages. 

For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit

Reflections on Harmon-Meek Gallery by H. Alexander Rich, Ph.D.

The Harmon-Meek Gallery offers something rare and exemplary in the world of art.  While selling art underlies its premise as a commercial operation, the Harmon-Meek Gallery is so much more.  It is a gallery run by a family whose commitment to advocating for American art and its cultural value is met only by its commitment to promoting the educational value of learning about that art and its history.  Under the longtime aegis of Bill and Barbara Meek, and now under their daughters Juliana and Kristine, the Gallery has supported the careers of American artists from across the 20th and 21st centuries.

Nurturing key and often unfortunately under-known American artists over the course of their careers, the Meeks have become not only champions of American art but also go-to experts in the field of American figuration, in particular.  Bill and Barbara have developed a personal collection and a network of artists and artist estates that reach back into the early years of the 20th century, allowing them — and the Gallery through them — to find a niche in telling the story of American art.  Furthermore, with education as a primary focus over the decades, the Meek family has established itself as a benefactor of the arts, cultivating collections for the didactic benefit of the community.

Most recently, Bill has worked tirelessly — and continues to work tirelessly — to help build a new permanent collection focus for the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College, the newly-affiliated campus academic museum.  It is through his, his family’s, and the Harmon-Meek Gallery’s generosity that this alliance between Florida Southern College and the Polk Museum of Art could even have been possible. With more than 500 works of American figuration arriving to the Museum over the course of the past half-year, the Polk Museum will be a stronghold in the arena of American figuration and testament to the Harmon-Meek Gallery’s longtime vision of American art as a worthy field unto its own.

Photos by Photo credit Nick Shirghio


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