Arts & Entertainment

Become a patron of the art of island living.

Since we've perfected the art of island living, it only makes since we also put it on display. The galleries on Sanibel, Captiva, Pine Island and Matlacha especially are proof positive of our eye for beautiful aesthetics. Theaters, too, seem to hold performances on a nightly basis in converted schoolhouses and old Vaudeville stages alike. If all else fails, just listen for the sound of live music coming from the closest bar and pull up the nearest chair.

Gallery Hopping

"Local art lives in colorful galleries, quiet gardens, cozy artist cooperatives and in some of the most unexpected places around Fort Myers Sanibel. "

"In the Fort Myers Sanibel area, it’s easy to boost your spirits with a bit of gallery hopping among swaying palms and the scent of the sea. These local art hotspots are full of color, creativity and imagination – explore them and they’ll lift you into an island-state of mind, and beyond.

Matlacha & Pine Island
Wild Child Art Gallery (Matlacha):Voted “Best of Pine Island” Gallery of the Year. Lose yourself in the Zen-like tranquility of this robust little gallery, which features art by more than 120 Florida artists (including metal sculptures by owner Peggy McTeague) in a variety of mediums. Workshops offered seasonally.
Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens (Matlacha): Bold, colorful and fun! Leoma Lovegrove, “Pine Island’s Painting Princess,” blankets the walls of her old fisherman’s shack with portraits of luminaries like the Beatles. The art garden is magical. Take home one of Leoma’s famous coconut postcards. [[MOREBREAK]]  
SyZyGy Gallery (Matlacha): Cheery and inviting. Explore the little rooms showcasing  local and international artists, and don’t miss original works by artist/owner Christina Jarmolinski, whose paintings border on Pop art.  
Crossed Palms Gallery (Bokeelia): Classy and vibrant. Wander the rooms of this 1930s fisherman’s cottage brimming with hand-picked, one-of-a-kind creations from artists from around the country. Linger on the shore overlooking Charlotte Harbor. 
Koucky Gallery & Gardens (Bokeelia):Prints, pottery, plants. Nestled within a tropical nursery, the functional stoneware and decorative Raku of owner/potter Chuck Koucky is featured with jewelry and prints of artists with a “personal connection.”  
The Potter’s Workshop & Gallery (St. James City):Artsy, unconventional and open-air. Step into a world where eye-popping glazes hand-mixed by owner/potter Ingeborg pair with stylish lines of functional and decorative pottery, from teapots to scluptures.   
Creative Coast Weekends: A must-experience seasonal festival celebrating art with extended hours, receptions, music and demos. Held on the second weekend of every month, November through April.

Sanibel & Captiva Islands
Tower Gallery Cooperative (Sanibel):Islandy and energetic. The cozy aura of this bright blue 1926 beach house is the perfect backdrop for showcasing the individual styles and mediums of local talent. 
Jungle Drums (Captiva): A wildly eclectic mix of art. A tiny garden boasting bronze sculptures of dolphins sets the stage for this wildlife-inspired gallery. Inside: stunning to whimsical objets d’art. 
2 Islands Gallery (Captiva): Bright and airy. Striking creations by 20 local artists enliven this fine art gallery renowned for paintings, photography, chic wearable art and more.

Downtown Fort Myers / The River District
Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center:The “gem of the River District.” This 1933 architectural icon is being reborn as an art center combining theater, music and rotating art shows. 
Art of the Olympians: Art and sport united. Head to the riverfront for a rare opportunity to view (and own) signed, original art created by Olympiads. Inspirational rotating sports exhibitions, too.  
Arts for ACT Gallery: Fine-n-funky. An eclectic experience blending main gallery art exhibits and back rooms filled with unique treasures. Operated by Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc. 
Downtown Art WalkFirst Fridays feature opening receptions, music and free shuttles for easy gallery hopping. Be sure to check out: the international flair of daas Gallery and the Pop art of Howl Gallery/Tattoo.
Parallel Park:This unexpected and eye-catching public art installation brings high art to the most practical of places: a parking garage. Huge, wildly colorful images that change with the light grace the exterior walls of the Lee County Justice Center’s new parking garage. The art, created by New York artist Marylyn Dintenfass, is said to mirror the garage’s activity with abstract interpretations of movement and car imagery. The garage fronts Martin Luther King Boulevard near Cottage Street, across from the Lee County Justice Center. "

Museum Scene

A fascinating collection of local museums explores the historical, natural and cultural side of Florida and beyond. See what's on display.

"Consider yourself a culture vulture? Then you’re in the right place. The Fort Myers Sanibel area’s rich museum scene showcases exhibits on everything from prehistoric creatures to the science of sports.

For the History Buff
Travel to another time at the Southwest Florida Museum of History in downtown Fort Myers. Exhibits whisk you back to Florida’s earliest days (think dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers) and shed light on what’s happened between then and now.

After touring the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, head to the on-site museum to learn more about the famed friends. Items on display include examples of Edison’s lightbulbs and a 1916 Model T given by Ford to Edison.

Housed in a trim, white cottage, the Barbara Sumwalt Museum preserves the history of Useppa Island, from its years as a Calusa Indian stronghold to its time as a vacation spot for U.S. politicians, businessmen and other high-society folks.

At Museum of the Islands, discover Pine Island’s past life as a major Calusa Indian settlement and its present role as a paradise for fishing and nature lovers.

Pine Island’s Randell Research Center and its Calusa Heritage Trail provide further details on the significant Calusa Indian site once found on the island.

Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum at Gasparilla Island State Park tells of life on the island when the railroad was its only connection to the mainland.

The Cape Coral Historical Museum traces the 20th-century development of this fast-growing city through photos, maps and other artifacts and memorabilia.</li> <li>Fort Myers’ Williams Academy Black History Museum, set to re-open in mid-November 2010, illuminates the achievements and contributions of the area’s African-American community.

For the Science and Nature Lover

Mix science with fun and you get downtown Fort Myers’s Imaginarium Hands-On Museum & Aquarium, where kids (and grown-ups) can feel the force of a hurricane, dig for dinosaur fossils and see how science impacts their favorite sport.

At Sanibel Island’s Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, visitors love learning more about the treasures they’ve found on the island’s beaches. Kids can even earn prizes for completing a shell scavenger hunt.

For the Art Enthusiast

At Art of the Olympians gallery and museum, see what some Olympic athletes do when they’re not hitting the slopes or running laps. Find paintings, sculptures, photos and other works by sports stars like Peggy Fleming and Bob Beamon at this downtown Fort Myers art attraction.

Be bowled over by the Sanders Collection at Edison State College, which showcases examples of 18th- through 20th-century Asian porcelain at the Rush Library on the Fort Myers campus. Then head to the campus’s Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, which is named after the late artist (and Captiva resident) and features changing displays of works by students and other artists.

Looking for the next Picasso? Catch an exhibit at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Art Gallery or ArtLab. Student artists (along with other artists from near and far) show off their pieces at these two campus spots.

Best Bets for Arts, Culture & History

"Museums chronicle the area's rich history, while theaters and galleries put on a great show of their own."

MUSEUMS

Museum of the Islands
MOTI, as it’s known locally, is located in the old Pine Island Library building. The museum tells the story of this mainly agricultural and fishing island from the time of the Calusa Indians through pioneer homesteaders.

Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum and Whidden’s Marina
Visit this still-working lighthouse built in 1890 and the adjacent assistant keeper's cottage, now a museum of Gasparilla Island's intriguing history. Nearby Whidden's Marina offers a glimpse into the area's seafaring past.

Barbara Sumwalt Museum
This gem of a museum's star attractions are Useppa Man and Woman. Other topics include the history of tarpon fishing, the use of the island to select CIA Bay of Pigs operatives and the history of the Paleo people, Cuban rancheros and the Civil and Seminole wars.

HISTORIC SITES

Edison & Ford Winter Estates
The Fort Myers winter homes of good friends Thomas Edison and Henry Ford underwent a $9 million renovation, completed in late 2005.

Koreshan State Historic Site
The remnants of this utopian community, which was established in 1894 by Dr. Cyrus Teed, provide a window into Estero's frontier days. Enjoy the sudden expanse of formal gardens and restored buildings – an island of civility pushing back the Florida wilds.

Calusa Heritage Trail (Pineland Complex)
Follow this interpretive trail into the past. With the aid of illustrated signs or a guided tour, see how the Calusa lived in this well-preserved coastal complex.

Calusa Heritage & Mound Tour
The Randell Research Center and Tropic Star have teamed up to offer a land-and-sea Calusa Heritage & Mound Tour from Pineland on Pine Island (by appointment). The tour includes a guided walk at the Calusa Heritage Trail, lunch at the Tarpon Lodge restaurant and a 1½-hour narrated boat tour to view four Calusa Indian mound islands.

Local Theaters
Venues including the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Florida Rep, Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater and Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall showcase high-caliber talent from near and far. Recent offerings have included “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (Schoolhouse), “The Rainmaker” (Barbara Mann), “Run for Your Wife” (Schoolhouse) and “The Producers” (Barbara Mann).

Explore the Arts & Culture of the Fort Myers Sanibel Area

A performing arts hall and intimate theaters present dramas, musicals and symphony performances, and art galleries abound.

Professional Productions

A theater that started in a historic schoolhouse, another in a restored Vaudeville theater and yet other spaces devoted to the charms of live musical theater dot the area’s performance landscape. The 1,871-seat Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall features Broadway musicals and performances by the Southwest Florida Symphony. Harry Connick Jr., Bill Cosby and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are just a few of the performances in early 2010.

Florida Rep, which is known for high-quality productions featuring equity actors, calls the restored Arcade Theater in downtown Fort Myers home. On Sanibel, the Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater’s intimate space feels almost like theater-in-the round. It offers musicals, comedies and revues. The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre presents professional, musical theater in a warm, family-friendly atmosphere – and the food’s good too.

Art Galleries and More

Sanibel is rightly called an “island of the arts," and in addition to live-performance spaces, has art galleries numbering in the teens, as well as BIG ARTS, a community gallery and performance space. Music, dance, visual arts and theater all find a home there.

The tiny community of Matlacha on the way to Pine Island is dotted with a kaleidoscope of brightly colored galleries with colorful characters inside to match.
Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers offers changing exhibitions of national and local member artists, as well as indoor and outdoor theater space. And the Art League of Bonita Springs offers classes and exhibitions by local artists.

Theater, Art and Music in the Fort Myers Sanibel Area

"Whether you prefer theater, music, dance or visual arts, you'll find that all art forms spring to life in a variety of settings."

What do Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bill Cosby, Olivia Newton John and Ikki Matsumoto have in common? They have all gotten into the act in The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Not only is this coveted destination a playground for nature lovers, but it also boasts a variety of playbills and a feast for arts lovers.

Theater Offerings

Fort Myers sets the stage with its many playhouses and performances. The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre serves up healthy portions of vibrant musicals after each scrumptious lunch or dinner.

The Florida Repertory Theatre is a not-for-profit, professional theater group. Murder mysteries, comedies, dramas – all are presented in the historic Arcade Theater, a charmingly renovated 1908 Victorian playhouse.

From crooners to comedians, the stars shine at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. Enjoy class acts Tim Conway, Bill Cosby and others, concerts by the Gulf Coast Symphony, “Beauty and the Beast” and many others.

For dinner and a show on the go, board the Seminole Gulf Railway’s Murder Mystery Dinner Train. Cocktails, fine wines and a five-course dinner are served while guests try to pinpoint the perp. The train crosses the scenic Caloosahatchee River and the Intracoastal Waterway on its three-and-a-half-hour trek.

Theatre Conspiracy has embarked on its own journey – to produce and promote the work of the next generation of great American playwrights. The resident theater company of Foulds Theatre at the Alliance for the Arts has been described as innovative and exciting.

In Cape Coral, local thespians take center stage at The Cultural Park Theatre Company, which is part of Cultural Park, Cape Coral’s fine arts center.

Music & Dance

Not to be upstaged by Fort Myers’ big-city box office, Sanibel Island boasts The Schoolhouse Theater, the island’s only professional musical theater, offering Broadway-caliber talent in an intimate atmosphere.

Ballet aficionados will recognize Sanibel resident Melinda Roy, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and a Tony-nominated choreographer. She is co-founder of Gulfshore Ballet School in Fort Myers.

Art, Both Fine and Folk

Wildlife, sunsets and spirit … Lee County’s essence has been captured on canvas for decades. Local, national and international artists continue to be inspired by the region’s colorful palette of possibilities.

The Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers is among those buzzing with exciting exhibitions and events. Classes, workshops and book signings round out the group’s music, dance and theater performances.

The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Edison College presents modern and contemporary artwork in all media, hosting several exhibitions annually, including a student show at the end of the academic year.

BIG ARTS is Sanibel and Captiva’s home to all the arts. In addition to rotating exhibits by Southwest Florida based-artists, it hosts workshops, a speakers forum, an independent film series and a variety of plays and dance and musical performances.

ArtFest Fort Myers is Southwest Florida’s premier fine art festival. The free, two-day celebration of the arts fills downtown with exceptional artwork, entertainment and children’s art activities every February. The Bonita Springs National Art Festivals, held in January and March, feature the artwork of more than 200 artists.

Best Bets: Beach Music

"Aruba, Jamaica... oooh, I'd rather take you to Fort Myers, Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach -- if you're looking for tropical tunes and island rhythms. "

With a bit of the Beach Boys, a riff of Jimmy Buffett and a backbeat of reggae, calypso and steel drum, the live music scene on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel delivers island flavor and tropical harmony.

Singers, musicians and tunesmiths
A number of local musicians perform the island sounds that visitors from cold northern climes long for. Danny Morgan, one of the area's longest-playing bands, does Jimmy Buffett along with original tunes, including Captiva Moon and Beautiful Sailboard Ride. Versatile John McLane plays everything from sax to steel drums.
Greg Roché and Noble Hochmeister are two other local talents with a tropical twist. They cover the Beach Boys, Buffett, Bob Marley and others with guitar and vocals. For purely positive vibrations, The Reggae All-Stars is an all-Jamaican band with a sound that won't let you sit still. For a bit of Cajun-Zydeco flavor, look for The Yard Dogs.

Watch for these artists to appear around the area, and read below to find out where you can hear them and others live.

Jammin' on the beaches
For those in search of true beach party tunes, look no farther than the clubs of Fort Myers Beach. Around the Times Square area, music drifts across the waves from Cottage Bar, Beach Pierside Grill, Beached Whale and Lani Kai Resort. The Yard Dogs frequent the stage at Pinchers Beach Bar & Grill at the Holiday Inn. Parrot Key Caribbean Grill lives up to its name, with tinkling sounds from the islands.

Reggae in the islands
On Sanibel and Captiva Islands, resorts, restaurants and clubs host musicians on a regular basis, many of them with a Caribbean flair. On Sanibel, the Jacaranda Bar is the hottest spot for dancing, often to reggae bands. John McLane is a regular at Thistle Lodge Sunday brunch at Casa Ybel Resort, and Danny Morgan plays twice weekly at Traders Café, a favorite among locals.

Captiva Island is always jiving, and you can hear tunes spilling out of Keylime Bistro at Captiva Island Inn and RC Otters just about any time of day. Steel drum and other solo acts entertain six nights a week on the beach at Mucky Duck. For dancing, hit the Crow's Nest at 'Tween Waters Inn. Danny Morgan also performs on Captiva Cruises' Sunset Serenade excursions.

Tunes in town
In downtown Fort Myers, you're likely to hear blues or jazz at popular clubs including City Tavern. If you're in a mellow mood, slip into Bell Tower Shops every other Friday for contemporary, easy-listening music. Nearby at Shoeless Joe's in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, guitarist and singer Jeff Key entertains.

Good vibrations on the Cape
Cape Coral is home to the Yard Dogs, who perform weekly at the Twisted Conch, a Caribbean-style grill. Live country and rock-and-roll bands fill the streets during the Coconut Festival, held in November.

Local flavor in Pine Island
Don't necessarily expect ""tropical tourist tunes"" in Pine Island, where the locals tend to favor classic rock, blues, bluegrass and country rock. Do expect funky, let-your-hair-down fun at Ragged Ass Saloon, Bert's Bar & Grill and Woody's Waterside. The latter often presents solo artists who play island tunes."

Art of the Olympians Gallery Opens in Fort Myers

"The new gallery features impressive artwork and an uplifting message, bringing the Olympic spirit to downtown Fort Myers in full force. "

Winning isn’t everything – it’s doing your best that matters most, and creativity and balance are key. That’s the thinking behind the new Art of the Olympians gallery in downtown Fort Myers’ historic River District.

Based on the ancient tenets of the Olympic Games, where athletes nurtured their artistic as well as athletic abilities, the gallery came to life through the vision and passion of former Olympian Al Oerter. A consecutive four-time discus gold medalist, Oerter lived and painted in Fort Myers Beach many years before his death in 2007. His family members and fellow Olympians worked to bring the one-of-a-kind gallery to fruition. It opened in January 2010, just in time for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The Star Attraction: Art & Sport
One of only four locations in the U.S. permitted by the U.S. Olympic Committee to use the Olympian name and their logo, Art of the Olympians (AOTO) displays Oerter’s work along with that of more than 30 others – from fencers to bobsledders, Americans to Australians, sculptors to poets.  The art is showcased in a new, ultra-modern building with Mediterranean accents, located on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The light and airy second-floor gallery overlooks the river and displays a 125-piece collection. Here’s just a sampling of the art:

Peggy Fleming’s mixed media representation of the Olympic rings and a sketch of her Olympic figure skating routines.  Abstract paintings by the late gold medalist runner Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith JoynerIntricate and realistic pencil sketches by Liston Bochette, a decathlon and bobsled Olympian.  Olympic portraits by Fijian athletics competitor Tony Moore</li> <li>Eye-catching graphic designs by record long-jumper Bob Beamon.

On the building’s first floor, the Al Oerter Educational Center of Excellence features multi-media Olympic exhibits, touring exhibitions and presentations by Olympians.

The Journey: Unique Exhibit to Permanent Gallery
Oerter worked with fellow Olympian and artist Liston Bochette (a Fort Myers resident who represented Puerto Rico) to put together the region’s first display of Olympian art. The exhibit, which included the works of 12 international athlete-artists, was held at Fort Myers’ Alliance of the Arts in conjunction with the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy.

They envisioned a permanent home for the growing collection and chose Fort Myers, then began planning and fundraising. According to Bochette, Oerter thought of the gallery as a “small diamond” and wanted its permanent home to be a place where people would want to come see it.

After Oerter passed away, family and fellow athletes carried the torch, making a presence and garnering attention with an exhibit at the 2009 Summer Games in Beijing. The Olympic community embraced the idea. Gold medalist figure skater Peggy Fleming narrated an hour-long documentary about the gallery that aired nationwide. Another famous former Olympian, bobsledder Prince Albert of Monaco, has pledged international fundraising support. With the backing of the Olympic community, AOTO directors expect to draw 300,000 visitors a year to the Fort Myers art attraction.

The Victory: A Winning Message
Cathy Oerter says her husband had a commitment to fusing body, mind and spirit. “He always said art and athletics are quite the same, except art is a lot easier on the shoulders and knees,” she said. Her husband decried egotism in sports and worked hard to educate future athletes about Olympic values, seeking to promote athletic social responsibility in the modern world.

One of Al Oerter’s most notable quotes is: “I didn’t set out to beat the world; I just set out to do my absolute best.” The Art of the Olympians gallery and its Center for Excellence offer a fitting, lasting tribute to Oerter – and a world of inspiration for anyone who visits."

Theater, Art and Music in the Fort Myers Sanibel Area

"Whether you prefer theater, music, dance or visual arts, you'll find that all art forms spring to life in a variety of settings in the Fort Myers Sanibel area. "

What do Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bill Cosby, Olivia Newton John and Ikki Matsumoto have in common? They have all gotten into the act in The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Not only is this coveted destination a playground for nature lovers, but it also boasts a variety of playbills and a feast for arts lovers.

Theater Offerings
Fort Myers sets the stage with its many playhouses and performances. The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre serves up healthy portions of vibrant musicals after each scrumptious lunch or dinner.

The Florida Repertory Theatre is a not-for-profit, professional theater group. Murder mysteries, comedies, dramas – all are presented in the historic Arcade Theater, a charmingly renovated 1908 Victorian playhouse.

From crooners to comedians, the stars shine at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. Enjoy class acts Tim Conway, Bill Cosby and others, concerts by the Gulf Coast Symphony, “Beauty and the Beast” and many others.

For dinner and a show on the go, board the Seminole Gulf Railway’s Murder Mystery Dinner Train. Cocktails, fine wines and a five-course dinner are served while guests try to pinpoint the perp. The train crosses the scenic Caloosahatchee River and the Intracoastal Waterway on its three-and-a-half-hour trek.

Theatre Conspiracy has embarked on its own journey – to produce and promote the work of the next generation of great American playwrights. The resident theater company of Foulds Theatre at the Alliance for the Arts has been described as innovative and exciting.

In Cape Coral, local thespians take center stage at The Cultural Park Theatre Company, which is part of Cultural Park, Cape Coral’s fine arts center.

Music & Dance
Not to be upstaged by Fort Myers’ big-city box office, Sanibel Island boasts The Schoolhouse Theater, the island’s only professional musical theater, offering Broadway-caliber talent in an intimate atmosphere.

Ballet aficionados will recognize Sanibel resident Melinda Roy, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and a Tony-nominated choreographer. She is co-founder of Gulfshore Ballet School in Fort Myers.

Art, Both Fine and Folk
Wildlife, sunsets and spirit … Lee County’s essence has been captured on canvas for decades. Local, national and international artists continue to be inspired by the region’s colorful palette of possibilities.

The Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers is among those buzzing with exciting exhibitions and events. Classes, workshops and book signings round out the group’s music, dance and theater performances.

The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Edison College presents modern and contemporary artwork in all media, hosting several exhibitions annually, including a student show at the end of the academic year.

BIG ARTS is Sanibel and Captiva’s home to all the arts. In addition to rotating exhibits by Southwest Florida based-artists, it hosts workshops, a speakers forum, an independent film series and a variety of plays and dance and musical performances.

ArtFest Fort Myers is Southwest Florida’s premier fine art festival. The free, two-day celebration of the arts fills downtown with exceptional artwork, entertainment and children’s art activities every February. The Bonita Springs National Art Festivals, held in January and March, feature the artwork of more than 200 artists.

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