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The Art of Transformation

BY PATRICE SHELKUN

Transformation. That was the focus I had chosen for this month’s article on the arts, aimed primarily at the transformation of the Naples Art District community over the last 16 years. Little did I know as I sat down to write, that our community of Southwest Florida would be facing the devastation of perhaps the greatest natural disaster to hit the Sunshine State.

Sometimes change – and thus transformation – is thrust upon us by life’s circumstances. And those circumstances aren’t always welcome. But we find strength in community, in supporting one another, and we build from there.

Naples Art District Map - Naples, Florida

It takes vision to see what the possibilities are. When ceramist and sculptor Richard Rosen founded the Naples Art District in 2006, he and a small group of 15 Naples artists had the idea to share their art and artistic practice with people in their community. Starting as just a few studio spaces in a largely industrial neighborhood where rents were affordable, the mission of this unique 501(c)(3) non-profit has been to cultivate art awareness and education in Naples. Not only did these artists establish a personal place for art-making, but their efforts have helped transform the area – and our community– into a culturally rich and vibrant place to visit and call home.

In the area bordered by Shirley Street to the west and Airport-Pulling Road to the east, from Pine Ridge Road up to Trade Center Way, you’ll find loads of businesses that provide design services and building materials to homeowners and the construction industry. But you’ll also now 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.

Finding strength in one another and in each other’s gifts helps transform us into our best selves, and it certainly can help transform a community after loss. Part of what has made the Naples Art District so attractive to artists as well as art-lovers over the years is its sense of community. Artists often work in isolation, spending much of their time alone in the studio. Thus, they value the opportunity to share ideas, philosophies and skills with other working artists.

Most artists are also eager to share what they know and love with those who value art, or who simply want to venture into making art for the first time or explore a new technique. Many studios offer workshops and classes on a regular basis. Instead of a having just a brief conversation with an artist exhibiting at a weekend art fair, the Naples Art District allows you the chance to develop ongoing relationships with artists, learning from them and supporting them in their work.

Despite the setbacks of a major hurricane, Art Alive! open studio events will take place on the first Wednesday, first Thursday, and third Saturday each month from November to May. Some studios are open every Thursday and by appointment as well. Other special events planned for this season will coordinate with the county-wide! Arte Viva! celebration of Hispanic arts and culture, including a Feliz Navidad celebration in December and a special Frida Fest focusing on Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in late January. Artful Arrangements in February, an Art & Design Expo in March, and a Creativity Camp for Adults in late April-May are also planned. For more information, visit the Naples Art District website at naplesartdistrict.com.

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.