Lee County seems to attract more than its share of writers, artists, musicians and theatrical performers, largely due to the work of the Alliance for the Arts. This official Lee County arts organization rises to the challenge of its mission to “facilitate and nurture the creation, development, promotion and education of arts and culture in Lee County”.
History of the Alliance for the Arts in Lee County
The Alliance for the Arts was founded in 1975 by a group of dedicated community leaders headed by David Robinson and Barbara B. Mann. Their vision was to promote local arts in the Fort Myers area by bringing together local arts and cultural organizations which now number over 50 individual groups.
The William R. Frizzell Cultural Center
In 1992 the Alliance procured the William R. Frizzell Cultural Centre which provides local organizations in Fort Myers with meeting and entertainment space in its 12,000 square foot building and surrounding 10-acre campus on McGregor Blvd.
This impressive local facility includes art galleries, a gift shop, a 1500 seat amphitheater, classrooms and rental space for artists and businesses. There is also the 150-seat Foulds Theater which presents more than 100 theatrical, musical and orchestral performances every year.
There are three art galleries at the center displaying a variety of permanent and seasonal art exhibitions by local and national artists. The exhibits are often on a set theme such as “Works in Glass”. The recent “Layers, Fiber, Collage and Assemblage” exhibition attracted 140 pieces in a variety of mediums from 74 artists. Viewing the exhibits is free and the entries are judged with cash prizes awarded at a special reception.
Theatrical Productions and Arts Programs
The Lee County Alliance for the Arts has a busy calendar of events and productions throughout the year with something for all interests and ages. The annual “Walk thru the Arts” each fall promotes many of the area’s arts organizations while providing much needed publicity for the area’s cultural groups. There are BBQs, outdoor movies, concerts and charity fundraisers throughout the year along with classes and workshops in a range of craft techniques including painting, drawing, knitting, weaving and even yoga.
The cultural center provides free audition space for the annual Young Artists Awards and free exhibition space for worthy exhibits from Lee County students in elementary, middle and high schools. As well as a Summer Camp, the Alliance offers art classes and youth education programs to give budding artists the opportunity to develop and showcase their artistic skills.
On a wider note, the Alliance for the Arts oversees the art exhibits that are on display at the Southwest Florida International Airport and contributes to the public art and murals that now adorn the downtown River District.
One of the most popular events at the Alliance for the Arts Center is the weekly Green Market which provides an outlet for local growers and vendors. Stalls offer a selection of plants, healthy foods, fresh produce, handmade jewelry and artworks.
Next time you are in the Fort Myers area, head south down McGregor and drop into the Alliance for the Arts campus on the corner of Colonial. Browse the galleries, take a studio tour, pick up a brochure of forthcoming theatre performances and support local artisans by purchasing hand-crafted items from the gift shop.
The Alliance for the Arts is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is well worth a visit.