Inclusivity is a big theme in the local arts world recently. Groups such as Alliance for the Arts lead the conversation. The Fort Myers arts group recently launched their Communities Harnessing the Arts to Nurture and Grow Equity program for artists of color, and opened the Bloom & Wallace Digital Arts Lab to increase digital literacy for all, with programs around podcasting, Photoshop and digital art. Also in Fort Myers, The Laboratory Theater of Florida adds a sensory-friendly performance for each production, where they remove strobe lights, lower sound levels and lights, incorporate a quiet space, and allow guests to move around the theater as needed during the show. Meanwhile, new venues emerge with a mission-oriented focus. In East Naples, the music venue-thrift shop-art gallery-rental space The Burrow opened in May. Honoring the verdant backyard that anchors the space, the group supports conservation by donating proceeds to The Florida Wildlife Corridor.
East West Fine Art’s Leeza and Olga Arkhangelskaya are well known for their art gallery in Mercato. Now, the mother-daughter duo debut a second locale on Fifth Avenue South (a homecoming for the pair who had a gallery on Fifth 25 years ago). Known for curation of works that spark conversation, the duo is leaning even more into edgy and thought-provoking art for their downtown gallery.
Other accomplished creatives make big moves in the community. In Bonita Springs, Aloyna Ushe joined newly rebranded Arts Bonita, formerly Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, in May and has already added a new residency program, festivals, monthly art walks and collaborations with local schools. And, Florida Gulf Coast University’s director of jazz studies Brandon Robertson stepped into a second role to empower young musicians as director for the Naples Philharmonic Youth Jazz Orchestra at Artis—Naples.
As new leaders rise up, institutions double down on their offerings. In Naples, The Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center reopens in November 4 with an extra 3,500-square-feet of exhibition space, including the new interactive Auschwitz Gallery, which has videos of local survivors sharing their stories. On the musical front, Opera Naples welcomes new leader Laura Burns and returns to their Wang Opera Center home after Hurricane Ian forced them to shutter and perform in makeshift venues for a season.
And, Naples Art District (NAD) caps a year of celebrating Naples’ centennial with a series of plein air painting sessions, meant to exalt the city’s natural beauty. Members of NAD’s 85-plus roster of working artists take over Third Street South and nearby beaches on November 4, Naples Botanical Garden on January 27 and Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens on March 23 to paint the beauty they see.