Museums & Galleries

You just might learn something.

The natural gifts and beauty of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel has always inspired creatively minded individuals to do great things. Because of it, our museums and galleries are true gems and easily worth the price of admission, if there is one. The Southwest Florida Museum of History catalogues early local human communities just as the Edison & Ford Winter Estates does Old Florida architecture and the exploits of these two great inventors.

A fascinating collection of local museums explores the historical, natural and cultural side of Florida and beyond.

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.

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.

Gallery Hopping

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Matlacha & Pine Island

Wild Child Art Gallery: 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: 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.

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 Walk: First 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 & Gallery Venues & Locations

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