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.

Museum Scene

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

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.

> 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

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

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.


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.

Art Galleries on Matlacha & Pine Island

"Enjoy sculpture, jewelry and paintings with a trip to some of the many colorful art galleries on Matlacha and Pine Island."

A lightness enters my soul as I drive across the bridge to Matlacha. Perhaps it's the water on all sides, or the lingering remnants of Calusa culture. Maybe it's the distinct quality of light, and life, that infuses this tiny community long home to fishermen who haul in their catch at the end of a fruitful day on the water. Or maybe it's the artists who've brought their rainbow-hued world to this stretch of Matlacha, their brightly colored galleries reflecting the work – and personalities – inside.

Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens
The pioneer is Leoma Lovegrove, an effervescent woman whose passion for art is contagious. At Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens, the outside is decorated with vibrant hot pink polka dots on a sea-blue background. Inside, you'll find prints and originals of Lovegrove's work.

As I take in the variety of images, I find myself humming a Beatles tune, inspired by Lovegrove's series that pays homage to the Fab Four. Paint your own souvenir on a seashell, wooden fish or tile or send a hand painted Coco-Note to someone back home.


Wild Child Art Gallery
Next door is Wild Child Art Gallery, where you'll find an eclectic mix of creations from more than 120 Southwest Florida artists, including those of owner Peggy McTeague, who specializes in metal sculptures and fountains. Wild Child has an outdoor space with a colorful waterside deck and a garden rocking chair made in part from welded horseshoes. The gallery hosts weekly demonstrations by area artists October through April.


Traders Hitching Post
Cross the road to Traders Hitching Post, featuring silver and turquoise jewelry and award-winning art with a Southwestern flavor. Owners Jerry and Cindee Tolliver seek out traditional and contemporary Native American pieces, such as kachina dolls, Navajo pottery, peace pipes and faces carved out of cottonwood. The original Matlacha art gallery, Traders has been at the same location for more than 25 years.


Crossed Palms Gallery
I'm off to the north tip of Pine Island in search of Crossed Palms Gallery and the old settlement of Bokeelia, a charming outpost overlooking Charlotte Harbor. True to the gallery’s name, a pair of palms frame the waterfront view, crossed decorously.

Crossed Palms represents about 120 painters, sculptors, potters, jewelers and glass artists. Blenko glass shares space with famed Sanibel artist Ikki Matsumoto's graphics-inspired paintings, and there's lovely gold sea-life jewelry from the imagination and workbench of Evan Lloyd. Pottery glazes range from the subtle to the sublime.


Koucky Gallery
The spirit of individuality is alive and well at Koucky (pronounced Koo-ske) Gallery, near the turnoff to Pineland on Baypoint Road on Pine Island. Nancy and Chuck Koucky bought the old plant nursery called McGowan's Farm and made it their home and gallery and Chuck's pottery studio, where he teaches classes and creates his functional pieces in the colors of earth, sea and sky. I love his brie bakers, which come with recipes inside.

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