BY PATRICIA SCHELKUN
When Oscar Wilde, the well-known 19th-century Irish poet and playwright, proposed that art is life, he was observing that art and life are intimately entwined. Humans have been making art since the beginning of recorded history in every culture, place, and time.
Here in Southwest Florida, we’re seeing an expanding population of those with Latin American or Hispanic heritage—in Collier County that now amounts to 29% of our community. So it’s no surprise that many of our arts organizations, including the Naples Art District, have decided to celebrate our great cultural heritage this season with ¡ARTE VIVA!, the apt umbrella name for events that will be happening all around town.
For example, on December 17, the Naples Art District’s Saturday Art Alive! open studio event will feature a Feliz Navidad celebration with a focus on the Mexican Christmas traditions of Las Posadas. There will be poinsettias outside studio doors and original piñatas on display in some studios.
The Naples Art District is also working in conjunction with Naples Botanical Garden, where visiting artist Ricardo Soltero is displaying his larger-than-life-size sculptures in the exhibition La Calavera Catrina. Soltero will be working with Naples Art District artists to create a large mural and other images honoring Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to be displayed around the district at various studios during a two-week Frida Fest in January.
John Melleky, who recently took on the job of the Arts and Culture Manager for Collier County, said this is a perfect example of how ¡ARTE VIVA! has prompted different arts organizations within the community to collaborate. The Arts and Culture plan for the county, he said, has the vision to build Naples as an art destination. “We’re here to help these events happen through grants that improve marketing and increase tourism,” he said. In fact, the Naples Art District received a generous grant from the county this year which will help the 501(c)(3) non-profit serve its mission of increasing community awareness of this wonderful treasure of art and artisans in North Naples.
Melleky pointed out that the Naples Art District is a unique enclave where visitors can see artists working and talk with them in person. In the midst of this industrial neighborhood, you’ll find over 100 painters, photographers, ceramists, sculptors, woodworkers, glass artists, and jewelry makers, as well as those working in fiber art, printmaking, mosaic, pastels, and collage.
Each month, the Naples Art District hosts special open studio events where the public can visit the studios of working artists—on the first Wednesday early evenings and first Thursday afternoons, and on the third Saturdays from November to May. Some studios are open additional days every week or by appointment, and many offer classes in various media. Plus, there are other exciting opportunities to participate in special events throughout the season.
Patrice Schelkun is a contemporary realist painter working in oil and on glass. She and her husband split their time between Naples and Lake George, NY. View her work at www.patriceschelkun.com or @schelkun_studio_arts on Instagram and Facebook.