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Arts Center’s goal for 2019 is more members

January 2, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The Lee County Arts Center of North Fort Myers ended its first full year of operation some accomplishments. It held several art walks and got its 501 c 3 designation, which will allow it to raise money easier.

However, a lack of membership and facility has hampered the growth of the organization, something the group's board hopes to fix in the new year.

Becoming a 501 c 3 was the biggest obstacle to hurdle, said Mark Lipton, secretary and spokesperson for the organization. Once that happened, the money started coming in. About $6,000 was raised in 2018, which could be used for a co-op for different artists.

Article Photos

The 2019 officers for the Lee County Arts Center are, from left, directors Ruth Frank and Ron Wilder, secretary Mark Lipton, president Maryanne Howard, treasurer Rudy Berndlmaier and vice president Marion Briggs.


"Different artists could display their wares, sell them, and make it like a mini-gallery," Lipton said. "It could be paintings or pottery. It's a great model for people to develop things."

"We can really use an office so we can hold classes and have a venue for artists to display their work, have music for people to enjoy," said Maryanne Howard, president of the arts center.

The Art Walks at Hancock Bridge Square Shopping Center showed some promise when the first one debuted at the end of July. However, attendance wasn't as good as hoped for at the location, and thoughts of perhaps moving in there did not move forward.

The coming year brings new hope.

The Art Walks will take place at Merchants Crossing Shopping Center, which is better located and has greater occupancy as well as some empty places where the Arts Center may find a home.

Lipton said he has spoken with management at the plaza, as well as County Commissioner Brian Hamman about the possibility of renting an office.

"We're moving toward finding a location. We would also like to be a clearinghouse for people to come to and find out where their particular art-related activities are," Lipton said, adding that group's website will have a calendar to show what's coming up.

"I would like to be at Merchants Crossing. It's a more central location, has more stores, restaurants, and people are coming and going there," Howard said. "They do a craft show, car shows weekly, and it has received money from the county to upgrade there. It could be a home for us."

As far as membership, it could be better, though it ended the year with Lee County Insurance becoming a business member, with a general member and an artist also joining.

Howard said she hopes to drive membership in 2019.



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