Ten Years of Art Walk­ing

South­west Florida’s most pop­u­lar art crawl cel­e­brates its first decade

Cape Coral Living - - Contents -

It hap­pened 10 years ago, but it seems like yes­ter­day. Mi­ami trans­plant Greg Kneze­vich started con­ver­sa­tions with some art gallery own­ers in down­town Fort My­ers about join­ing forces to cre­ate an event that would draw at­ten­tion to the gal­leries in the area. Kneze­vich had just opened his own gallery on Hough Street, just a few min­utes away from the core of the city. Mean­while, Arts for ACT direc­tor Clau­dia Goode had met Kneze­vich and dis­cussed pos­si­bil­i­ties for a coali­tion of art spa­ces nearby. At about the same time, Xavier Brignoni and I in­au­gu­rated daas Gallery on Broad­way Street. We had seen the suc­cess of a city art event in San Juan, Puerto Rico, called Noches de Ga­le­ria (Gallery Nights) and thought the con­cept was per­fect for down­town Fort My­ers. Later con­ver­sa­tions with Hap­pen­ings mag­a­zine edi­tor Jamie Kuser gen­er­ated even more ideas about a pos­si­ble event. Un­know­ingly, we were all con­coct­ing the same po­tion. It did not take long for Kneze­vich to find us. We were amazed at the align­ment of plan­ets hap­pen­ing on that rainy day in Au­gust 2008 when he told us he had spo­ken to a lo­cal tattoo and vis­ual artist named Andy Howl, who was look­ing for a space to open his art gallery/tattoo shop. Howl would soon be­come a vi­tal part of this group. Goode was on board and so were other prom­i­nent fig­ures ac­tive in the arts com­mu­nity such as Terry Tincher and Jim Grif­fith. We all had sim­i­lar ideas and the de­sire to col­lab­o­rate. As I see it, we were meant to find each other to cre­ate some­thing great, and we did. Some­time later that month in 2008, gal­lerists, fu­ture gallery own­ers and other en­thu­si­as­tic col­lab­o­ra­tors met at Kneze­vich’s La Casa del Arte to talk about “the idea.” For a lit­tle over an hour, we brain­stormed and shared our thoughts on what this event would or should be, and what it meant for us and the com­mu­nity. Then, as if it had al­ways been there, Art Walk emerged. If I have ever been in a meet­ing where all brains were con­nected in an imag­i­nary net­work of neu­rons, this was it. We were fin­ish­ing each other’s sen­tences. From that first meet­ing, im­por­tant and iconic parts of Art Walk were pro­posed and es­tab­lished, in­clud­ing the event name, map, web­site con­cept and in­au­gu­ral date. A col­lectible but­ton was pro­posed as well, as an of­fer­ing to every­one who vis­ited. Lit­tle did we know that this meet­ing would for­ever

Lit­tle did we know that this meet­ing would for­ever change the his­tory of down­town Fort My­ers and would help pro­pel other pro­jects, lead­ing to the on­go­ing re­vi­tal­iza­tion and re­de­vel­op­ment of the down­town area.

change the his­tory of down­town Fort My­ers and would help pro­pel other pro­jects, lead­ing to the on­go­ing re­vi­tal­iza­tion and re­de­vel­op­ment of the down­town area. It may have been in­ex­pe­ri­ence, or per­haps im­pa­tience, but we all thought it was a good idea to in­au­gu­rate the event on the first Fri­day of Oc­to­ber 2008. In two short months, the Fort My­ers Art Walk was a re­al­ity. The first event suc­cess­fully brought more than 1,000 art crawlers to the down­town streets. Grif­fith had just ac­quired the former Fed­eral Build­ing on First Street and was in the process of restor­ing it. He rec­og­nized the po­ten­tial im­pact of this new event for the fu­ture Sid­ney & Berne Davis Art Cen­ter (SBDAC) and the down­town area. “Down­town Fort My­ers was still mostly va­cant, and most of the now pop­u­lar restau­rants and shops did not ex­ist yet,” re­calls Grif­fith, who is also an ac­com­plished vi­o­list and arts sup­porter. “We had not even fin­ished our ren­o­va­tions yet, but we were de­ter­mined to have a show ready,” re­calls Grif­fith about the first Art Walk night. “We didn’t have any art to show yet, so I brought about a dozen pieces of art from our house and put them on easels be­cause we didn’t even have walls to hang art on yet.” Some think that over the past decade the event has dras­ti­cally changed. Al­though some art venues, such as the SBDAC, have grown in pop­u­lar­ity, some peo­ple see a shift in the orig­i­nal fo­cus of the event. “As soon as the city of Fort My­ers be­gan clos­ing the streets, the event be­came more of a street party than a cul­tural des­ti­na­tion in­side the gal­leries,” says Goode, who still di­rects the Arts for ACT Gallery. Kuser agrees and be­lieves it is dif­fi­cult to have Art Walk with­out art gal­leries. Many of the orig­i­nal gal­leries have closed or re­lo­cated out­side of the down­town dis­trict. Nonethe­less, he con­cludes, “I am proud to be part of its cre­ation with some very tal­ented peo­ple.” Re­gard­less of how the event has changed, every­one in­volved in the in­cep­tion wishes for its con­tin­ued suc­cess. Cheers for the first 10 years!

David Acevedo is an award-win­ning vis­ual artist, arts writer, gallery owner and cu­ra­tor liv­ing in Cape Coral, Florida. He has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from the Univer­sity of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. Acevedo is the founder and pres­i­dent of the DAAS Co-op Art Gallery & Gifts, lo­cated in Royal Palm Square in Fort My­ers.

Art Walk or­ga­niz­ers kicked off the down­town Fort My­ers event in Oc­to­ber 2008. The orig­i­nal daasGallery (above, right),which was lo­cated down­town at the time, helped get it started.

The Sid­ney& Berne Davis tCen­ter was and­con­tin­ues to be a pop­u­lar Art Walk par­tic­i­pant. Be­low BDAC’s p al Gallery al­ways draws a crowd.

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