Once again — for the 17th year —ArtFest Fort Myers created a three-day art extravaganza the first weekend of February.
85,000 residents and visitors enjoyed exceptional art by top-notch artists from across the country and around the world. Every year close to 900 artists apply. A jury of professional artists, curators and academics choose only 200 artists to exhibit, bringing you the best-of-the-best.
That’s why ArtFest Fort Myers is the premier art festival in Southwest Florida – and ranks nationally among the top 100 art festivals.
Everyone “sees” the festival as it fills the downtown Fort Myers riverfront. But I’d like to take you behind the scenes — and let you know why we’re so passionate about creating ArtFest Fort Myers.
The anwer is simple: Art Matters. Supporting the arts defines the kind of community in which we wish to live and raise our children.
• Art builds community and brings people together.
• Art improves our quality of life, transforming and personalizing the places where we live and work.
• Artists bring creative thinking to community challenges and solutions.
• Arts organization leaders act as catalysts for learning, discovery, and achievement.
• Art encourages people to ask questions and even begin conversations with total strangers, whom they may not otherwise meet.
• Art inspires people to think about life in new ways.
Art Matters in a special way for children. After all, art encourages children to dream … to imagine … to expand the way they see the world. That’s why we’re devoted to making sure every child has a chance to enjoy art as part of a complete education.
What’s more, a study by Americans for the Arts found that young people who participate in the arts are:
• Four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
• Three times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
• Four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair
• Three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance
• Twice as likely to read for pleasure
Throughout the years ArtFest Fort Myers has supported art education year-round in countless ways, reaching more than 50,000 students in Lee County. Art Under 20 (the high school exhibit & competition) and Chalk Block (the high school street painting competition) are core aspects of art education at the art festival. Year-round after-school Art Clubs; Visiting Artist programs and Art Supply Grants have provided elementary and middle school students and at-risk-youth with the opportunity to experience art projects otherwise unavailable to them.
Art Matters for our economy, too. In a world where return-on-investment is important to so many decisions, we like to say “Give To The Arts – They Give Back.”
Local businesses benefit from ArtFest Fort Myers in a big way. Downtown restaurants and retailers report “it is the best weekend of the year for us.”
Creating the art festival’s infrastructure for 85,000 attendees provides business for local golf cart and radio rentals, port-a-let and equipment suppliers, IT support, food and beverage providers, parking lot company, security services, lighting designers, graphic designer and commercial printer, entertainers, and many other local businesses.
More broadly, Lee County’s non-profit arts organizations created 2,038 full-time jobs and $68 million in economic activity in 2010. (Numbers for 2016 will be available soon.)
The kind of community we want … growth for our children … economic benefits … well, I hope you see why we’re so dedicated to bringing ArtFest to the Fort Myers waterfront each and every year.
It does take dedication — it’s a huge project! Truly, it takes a community to create ArtFest Fort Myers. Our community includes our supportive sponsors, year-round efforts by a dedicated staff & board, a 55-member Volunteer Steering Committee, 450 enthusiastic festival-weekend volunteers, 200 incredible artists and 85,000 art-loving attendees. We thank each and every one of you for your support.
And we at ArtFest Fort Myers give back to our community. We provide free space for other Lee County art organizations to showcase their programs, as well as a Youth Stage for young performing artists to gain performance experience and showcase their organizations. We engage in on-going strategic thinking and planning with other arts organizations and public art intiatives to enhance our community.
In other words, we walk our talk. We ask ourselves what we ask everyone: How do YOU give to the arts, so the arts can give back?
Art Matters. I hope you’ll continue the conversation with us or the art organization of your choice, as we all use the arts to create the kind of community we can all love for years to come.