The Arts

Arts Make Their Mark in Bonita

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - Jeff Ly­tle is the re­tired edi­to­rial page edi­tor and TV host for Naples Daily News. He now lives in Bonita Springs.

The arts in Bonita Springs? Sounds like a very short story. For just how much vis­ual and per­form­ing arts can there be be­tween Naples and Fort My­ers? Ac­tu­ally, more than you may think. Bonita is no longer a mere “wide spot” on that north-south road, and its arts of­fer­ings are im­pres­sive.

Un­der the aus­pices of a sin­gle or­ga­ni­za­tion—Cen­ters for the Arts Bonita Springs, or CFABS—there is so much go­ing on, es­pe­cially in peak sea­son, that CFABS dis­sem­i­nates the info in sev­eral ways. These in­clude a news­let­ter is­sued monthly in win­ter, an an­nual list­ing of live in-sea­son per­for­mances, its web­site (art­cen­ter­ and email alerts for mem­bers and tick­ethold­ers.

CFABS’ two cam­puses of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn about and make all kinds of art­work, and to en­joy or pro­duce a va­ri­ety of mu­sic, dance, the­ater and film. Both cam­puses fea­ture fully equipped work­shop and class­room space. There is even a

com­puter room for chil­dren to make and edit their own short movies, which are shown to the public and are also en­tered into com­pe­ti­tion for prizes.

The Cen­ter for the Vis­ual Arts on Old 41 Road was built from scratch in the year 2000. The Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts was pur­chased from a church that em­pha­sized big-stage presentations—an ideal fit for CFABS—in 2014, and it has two the­aters seat­ing up to 200 and 400 peo­ple, re­spec­tively.

The syn­ergy be­tween the two cam­puses was ev­i­dent, for ex­am­ple, in last De­cem­ber’s is­sue of Arts Cen­ters News. It listed up­com­ing arts fes­ti­vals and a film fes­ti­val, adult and youth im­pro­vi­sa­tional comedy shows, hol­i­day and folk mu­sic con­certs, a com­bined sym­phony and jazz con­cert, art ex­hi­bi­tions, a for­eign film se­ries and a lunch-and-lec­ture se­ries on—what else—art.

Also listed were mas­ter work­shops on draw­ing and paint­ing, and mini-work­shops on glass, jew­elry and mo­saics, to name just a few. Multi-week work­shops in­cluded cal­lig­ra­phy, bead­ing, paint­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, po­etry, pot­tery, sculp­ture, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and singing, and the­ater and film. And don’t for­get the chil­dren and their “Hol­i­day Fun Camps,” which were laden with artis­tic pursuits. The an­nual price tag for all of that? A mod­est $2.4 mil­lion. As a lead­ing author­ity on the re­gion’s arts scene puts it: “For depth as well as breadth, the Cen­ters for the Arts Bonita Springs is in first place. Its per­form­ing arts se­ries spans ev­ery­thing from drama to mu­sic to im­prov, and its vis­ual arts classes for all age groups never stop. Add in the ex­hi­bi­tions … plus its an­nual film fes­ti­val, and you have a one-stop arts source for the en­tire area.’’

So says Har­riet Hei­thaus, long­time writer and edi­tor for

Naples Daily News. And while CFABS is big, it has not out­grown homey touches, such as invit­ing pa­trons of films and shows to re­serve shaded out­door ta­bles for brown bag lunches and din­ners.

Also, for a com­mu­nity with many re­tirees, CFABS is pas­sion­ate about youth. Its web­site notes: “As part of our mis­sion and ser­vice to our com­mu­ni­ties’ res­i­dents, we pro­vide pro­gram­ming to over 15,000 at-risk youth an­nu­ally. Last year we awarded over $100,000 in schol­ar­ships. … Artist vol­un­teers and staff visit mid­dle and el­e­men­tary schools with free hour-long ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams. Over 4,700 stu­dents par­tic­i­pate.’’

Young peo­ple are able to par­tic­i­pate in “Satur­day Ac­tiv­ity Days” for the whole fam­ily, and there are com­mu­nity the­ater op­por­tu­ni­ties, classes and recitals in bal­let, mod­ern, jazz and lyri­cal dance, ju­ried art ex­hi­bi­tions, sum­mer camps and men­tor pro­grams.

The web­site adds: “At-risk stu­dents are rec­om­mended by par­ents or fac­ulty, ad­min­is­tra­tors or coun­selors … Things That Fly, Ea­ger En­gi­neers, Global Ex­plor­ers and Earth Ex­plor­ers cre­atively link var­i­ous aca­demic cur­ricu­lum com­po­nents with fine arts, help­ing at-risk stu­dents strug­gling in their aca­demic en­vi­ron­ment.’’

Even more re­mark­able is that all of the above is achieved by a ded­i­cated cadre of only 21 em­ploy­ees, aug­mented by more than 2,100 vol­un­teers, which is roughly the same num­ber as dues-pay­ing mem­bers. It is com­mon for staff to do dou­ble duty as ad­min­is­tra­tors and teach­ers, as well as work day­time hours and re­turn for evening and week­end events.

CFABS chair­man Herm Kis­siah says

the cen­ters “play an im­por­tant role in bring­ing to­gether all seg­ments of our com­mu­nity. We de­sign our pro­grams and classes to ap­peal to chil­dren and adults, ex­pe­ri­enced artists and those who just wish to try some­thing dif­fer­ent. I con­tinue to be deeply af­fected when I see peo­ple en­gaged in cre­at­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent that they did not think they could ever do.’’

Look­ing ahead, CFABS pres­i­dent Susan Bridges en­thuses about some events from a “long wish list for progress.” In­cluded is an in­au­gu­ral light fes­ti­val at venues across the com­mu­nity in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. It is hoped that the f es­ti­val will be an an­nual event. Also on the list is a culi­nary arts pro­gram with per­ma­nent fa­cil­i­ties for classes for chil­dren and adults. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are de­li­cious.

Mem­ber­ship fees—and do­na­tions—are cru­cial to keep CFABS’ ef­forts go­ing and grow­ing. An­nual dues start at $25 for stu­dents, $80 for in­di­vid­u­als and $110 for fam­i­lies. More info? Call 239495-8989 or email cfabs@arts­

The Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts (first and sec­ond pho­tos above) and the Cen­ter for Vis­ual Arts (third and fourth pho­tos above) make sure their per­for­mances and classes cater to a va­ri­ety of age groups. Be­low is the main en­trance to the Cen­ter for...

The Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts cam­pus (above and bot­tom) is lo­cated on Bonita Beach Road. Be­low, mas­ter fla­menco dancer Clarita Filgueiras and her Mi­ami-based troupe, Fla­menco Puro, per­form at the cen­ter on May 12.

Above left, CFABS’ out­door ex­hi­bi­tions are al­ways pop­u­lar. Its Art­sCen­ter­sNews (above right) is is­sued monthly in win­ter. CFABS also pub­lishes an an­nual list­ing (be­low left) of live in-sea­son per­for­mances. Be­low right, per­form­ers take a bow—as should...

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