‘These are our schools, yours and mine’

‘These are our schools, yours and mine’

State of Our Schools: Lee students rising to the challenges faced today

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze May 29, 2015 issue

Superintendent Nancy Graham

Superintendent Nancy Graham

Although students today are faced with rigorous expectations to prepare them for a competitive workforce, School District Superintendent Dr. Nancy Graham told those in attendance at the State of Our Schools – Partners in Education breakfast Friday morning that students are rising to the challenge with great success.

With this year’s State of Our Schools theme of “Star Wars” The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President and CEO Marshall Bower dressed as Yoda and Graham dressed as Princess Leia.

Superintendent Nancy Graham and The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President and CEO Marshall Bower.

Superintendent Nancy Graham and The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President and CEO Marshall Bower.

“The summation of what I know . . . Star Wars goes like this – there are good guys and one really bad guy dressed in black. So, I had to ask myself how in the world do I relate all that to education,” she said. “Yoda has very few words to say. And when he says them, they are received as profound and lasting.”

Graham’s speech was broken down into seven lessons shared through Yoda.

Her first lesson, “you must unlearn what you have learned,” touched upon the difficult tasks with which educators are faced. Graham said most people have gone to school and many want to serve as local experts in running a school.

“Though it is comfortable for us to relate current life to our own experiences, it would be really helpful in the case of public education for individuals to unlearn or at least suspend personal experiences and see education for what it is today,” she said. “Heavily legislative, often politicized and insufficiently funded.”

Public education has changed in terms of requirements for high school graduation. Graham said years ago students completed their high school math requirements after finishing algebra one.

“You all know those same folks never had to pass a standardized test or end of course exam in math, history or science,” she said. “It’s likely in most cases those same people are reaping the benefits of a well-lived professional life. But today, none of those same people would be able to earn a high school diploma based on the current requirements facing our freshman class, the class of 2018.”

This year’s senior class had to earn at least a half credit of online courses to receive a high school diploma.

When adding rigorous, challenging and prescriptive academic expectations to life experiences of students that are already faced without a stable family unit, homelessness, poverty, English as a second language, neighborhood violence, mental illness and physical or emotional abuse the chance to become a kid may never come, she said.

Through all of those difficulties, Graham said there is a positive note. In 2014, Lee County achieved the highest reading learning gains in its history; performed above the state average in points earned for the state grading system; improved the district grade and this year’s high school graduates earned a combined $50 million in scholarships.

Her second lesson was titled “difficult to see, always in motion is the future, which focused on predicting what students might need to be prepared beyond their kindergarten through 12th grade education.

“As today’s educators, we are charged with preparing our students for the workforce. A workforce full of jobs yet to be defined,” Graham said. “This is the new way of work . . . preparing the future for the unknown. This is why we must focus on teaching our students how to think and problem solve. To look at math and science and literature from angles and many lenses.”

The future for the students is why the district focuses on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – as well as STEAM, because Lee County also includes the arts in its schools. Comprehensive high schools, which allow students to earn diplomas and industry certifications, are also offered to prepare students for the workforce.

Graham said the district also invests in such student leadership programs as JROTC, where Lee County ranks as the second largest in the country.

Another lesson, “truly wonderful the mind of a child” spoke to the district’s responsibility of acknowledging the minds they reach through relationships and programs to nurture students.

“You think Yoda stops teaching just because a student does not want to hear – a teacher Yoda Is” shared information about the teachers of Lee County.

Graham said next year the school district will employ just under 6,000 teachers, 2,000 of whom have a master’s degree or higher. She said it is no easy task to hire and retain the best talent because the School District of Lee County is the biggest employer from Tampa to Miami.

“We are back to a growth pattern of an additional 1,500 to 2,000 students a year,” Graham said. “We are projected to be in that mode for the next 10 years.”

The lesson also shared information about the newest career opportunities for teachers. A teacher leader spends part of their day teaching and the other half coaching other teachers, which Graham said has been successful.

Grants through the National Education Association have also helped in closing the learning gap in Lee County. What started as assistance for 10 schools, will have reached 30 schools in 2016 with the grant.

“When 900 years old you reach, look as good as you will not,” highlighted the capital budget funds decrease. Graham said the combination of lower property taxes, reduced impact fees and reduced funding from the state in the past five years resulted in $656 million loss to the district’s capital budget.

“As a district and a community, we can no longer pretend the losses have no impact as we face a growing number of students,” she said. “These are our schools, yours and mine. Our schools need to be maintained while new schools will ultimately have to be built to house the children that we know are coming.”

Another lesson titled “Try no. Do or do not. There is no try,” shared the importance of partnerships and their involvement.

“All in means more than just writing a check . . . though we are grateful for your financial support. In this partnership all in is about being an advocate of our schools, correcting misperceptions when you hear them or sharing the positives when others may want to be negative,” Graham said. “All in means we make promises to one another and we keep them.”

Some of those promises include a balance budget without using reserved funds; measurable three year strategic plan; nationally credited school district ; increase learning gains among all groups of students; at least one school counselor at every school; 325 fewer required tests; forward movement with technology including the start of one-on-one devices for students; C to a B district and on the way to becoming an A district, as well as continuing to work with the community to keep its vision.

She closed her speech by asking the audience to “pass on always what you have learned.”

“The more who know more the better and stronger the partnership becomes among us,” Graham said. “Our doors are open to you as we move forward and I encourage you to visit our schools. I will personally take you.

Forty-six

Forty-six

Friday, April 24, I woke up beyond excited. My countdown was nearing the end. My countdown of when I could leave to pick up Jason.

As the morning progressed, my mood enhanced. The excitement was hard to control.

Friday marked the 47th day since Jason left. I was finally able to greet this man I love face-to-face at the Asheville airport.

On March 9, Jason left for Florida to start working on Sanibel at two jobs he was offered.

I remember that morning like it was yesterday. I remember the emotions that took hold, well to be honest, consumed me. That morning, March 9, was one of the hardest things I was ever faced with. You ask why?

Jason was leaving me in Kingsport, more than 800-miles north of his final destination.

My best friend, my boyfriend, my rock was leaving until we could make ends meet. Our goal was to work countless hours and get enough money together, so he could come back to get me and all of our animals and head back to Fort Myers.

The 46-days we spent a part had many high and low points.

It’s truly inspiring to see what you are capable of doing when faced with a situation like that. A situation where I was living by myself in a state where I had no family or good friends to lean on when needed.

I found such an incredible amount of independence deep down that I had no idea was there. I stayed true to my plan . . . I continued to live without the best part of my life right next to me. I found time to go running with Lucy, my puppy, reaching distances that made me proud. I even found a new passion of cooking healthy meals that were absolutely delicious.

The best, truly gratifying part, was the amount of work I was able to accomplish doing freelance writing for the three papers that hired me. I wrote enough articles and did enough editing to pay all of our bills for the entire month of April. All of our bills were paid by the second week of the month. That spoke volumes. It only reaffirmed that I could take care of myself, truly take care of myself while keeping a roof over my head and food on the table. That accomplishment set the ball rolling in the right direction. All of the hours Jason was working could completely go towards our move back to Fort Myers.

With that milestone met, I was able to book a plane ticket for Jason on April 7, Day 30 of us being a part.

Even with all the positive thoughts I tried to keep in check, I still had a few breakdowns, a few more than I hoped while Jason was away.

It’s crazy how many emotions you go through. I found myself crying at such random times, and also smiling when I least expected. The daily phone calls from my mom on her way home from work were comforting. My older brother also called often checking in on me.

My favorite part of the day was when Jason would call. I could not fall asleep until I heard his voice, to hear how he was doing, to hear he was okay.

I remember one breakdown as clear as day. It started one Friday night while Jason was away. I completely broke down. Lucy, our puppy, helped tremendously that night. She instantly became concerned as the tears violently fell. Lucy began licking the tears away before cuddling in my lap, helping me to gain composure again. I remember walking to bed, but was unable to sleep well at all. The next day my anxiety reached its highest point leaving me paralyzed.

That day was awful. I felt helpless. Everything I tried didn’t help.

Through it all, I felt an incredible amount of closeness to Jason as I lived my life in Kingsport, and he lived his in Fort Myers. Although we were living our separate lives, I felt we were still sharing our life together. We became closer. He remained my rock. He gave me tough love when I needed it to break through when I got the sinking feeling.

Jason shared how much he loved me and missed me on a daily basis. I felt how hard it was for him, as well, through our conversations. I knew, without a doubt, that he was doing everything in his power to come back to me sooner. Although he sounded exhausted on more than one occasion he woke the next day and worked another 15+ hour day, all so he could keep that promise he made before leaving.

So, back to Friday, April 24.

I arrived at the airport at 12:27 and he was supposed to land at 12:32. It was absolutely perfect timing. I had enough time to make a quick bathroom break and then stand where I could see Jason come into view.

It never fails. Six minutes turned into the longest 45-minutes of my life. Jason’s plane was delayed leaving Punta Gorda.

As soon as I saw him, I felt my entire body relax. I felt complete again. My true love was now in my presence. He was now standing in front of me. I was able to hug him, kiss him, see his smile instead of hearing the smile form over the phone.

I was giddy as all hell.

The relaxation that flowed through Jason’s body told me our decision to be a part was more than worth it. It was worth it because everything was coming together for us. Almost like it was meant to happen the way it did. Jason has been able to find work and continues to find more work. The stress we felt about making ends meet in Kingsport, I could sense was vanishing. He almost looked stress free. I didn’t even have to ask if we did the right thing.

The rest of the day was absolutely perfect. It was spent one-on-one, as well as with some of the friends we had made in Tennessee. I must have told Jason a hundred times how nice it was to have him back home. Well home, for the next 24+ hours until we headed south to Fort Myers.

Leo and Lucy at one of the many gas stations we had to stop at to fill up the truck.

Leo and Lucy at one of the many gas stations we had to stop at to fill up the truck.

After the truck was packed and we said our goodbyes to Frazier, we slowed down and fell asleep for a while before we hit the road at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Those early morning hours finally ended as we arrived in Fort Myers around 8 p.m.

It was an incredibly long drive, especially when traveling with three animals.

Our poor Leo had a difficult six or seven hours before he finally calmed down and found some comfort with our puppy Lucy. Kimber was frightened and let us know she wanted out of the truck hours ago.

20150426_123623

Leo

 

Kimber

Kimber

 

Lucy

Lucy

 

Leo finally relaxed as Lucy layed on him.

Leo finally relaxed as Lucy layed on him.

Even through the constant desire to be out of a moving vehicle, Jason and I had some amazing conversations, especially as we neared 17 hours on the road.

Our connection only intensified. Our connection only strengthened, as we had those deep conversations of our present circumstances, our future plans and goals.

A cloud came into view that resembled a heart as we neared Fort Myers.

A cloud came into view that resembled a heart as we neared Fort Myers.

Time a part definitely makes the heart grow fonder. I feel so much closer to a man I had already felt a deep connection with.

Now we are in the limbo stages staying with my parents until our new place is ready this weekend. I’m looking forward to making us a new home once again. I’m looking forward to getting us to the point where we can both relax with all of our belongings and animals all under one roof again.

Another chapter has been closed. Another chapter is already well on its way. Our lives are intertwined again in the same state, under the same roof.

We are living in Southwest Florida once again surrounded by family and friends.

Two years ago tomorrow, we traveled to Kingsport to start a new life. We arrived at our new home on May 1. Who would have thought we would be back in Fort Myers so soon?

An extremely hard decision

An extremely hard decision

The life as we know it in Kingsport was shaken pretty hard on Wednesday, which resulted in a quick action plan. An action plan that left us both in tears as the discussions began.

After dropping Jason off at work on Wednesday, I came back home and began writing one of the many articles I had to turn in to meet deadlines.

As I was working, my cell phone rang a little after 11 a.m. as Jason’s face filled my screen. After saying hello, he said I have to call you right back. My phone rang again a few seconds later only to hear, I’m walking home, come pick me up.

I threw on my shoes, grabbed my purse and was out the door. I’ve had phone calls like this in the past.

Within minutes Jason came into view on the side of the road walking. I stopped in the middle of the road, knowing the cars behind me were far enough away. Jason got in the car. I asked him if everything was okay. He replied “No. I don’t want to talk about it.”

The ride home was pretty quiet, as my thoughts shot in every direction of what could have happened. When we got home, we both got out of the car. Jason came around to my side and said “I know you mean well, just give me some time.”

I respected his wishes, knowing he would share once he settled down.

Well, that all changed when he walked into my office and asked how much we still owe on his car. After I looked it up for him, I asked, what’s going on?

That’s when the events of the morning unfolded and I learned that Jason’s boss told him to leave for reasons I think are absurd.

My response of course was if he can unravel and get that nasty that quickly, I don’t want you working for him anymore. You’re done babe.

I worked for his boss for a little while creating labels for him for cheese and bread. The beginning of our working relationship was nice. Towards the end, I started to not care for him anymore. So, I finished all the work he had given me, provided him with the files and wiped my hands of the whole situation.

After Jason contacted a few people he knows in the area asking if they had work or if they know of anyone looking for help, we decided it was time for a major change.

That change, like I said, shook us pretty good.

That change . . . well, we knew deep down, was in the cards.

That change we both knew would allow us to breathe a little more. That decision would take an incredible amount of weight off our shoulders.

That change, like I said had the tears flowing quite frequently.

That change . . . another move.

It’s time to leave Kingsport and head back to an economy that is striving . . . Fort Myers where our family and friends are.

On May 1, it would have marked two years since we moved to Tennessee from Fort Myers. Almost two years of trying to make it work in an economy that does not offer any assistance to stay afloat with the little wages provided.

I am so proud of us for giving this new home of ours more than 100 percent. We gave this place a lot of blood, sweat and tears trying to stay afloat, trying to make a living.

Sometimes you just have to know when it’s time . . . when it’s time to cut your losses and start again somewhere new. When it’s time to come up for air and breathe a little easier.

We found a new kind of beauty. We found a new sense of peace. We found a passion we enjoy together . . . hiking and enjoying the outdoors for all it has to offer.

All of those findings happened here in Kingsport and surrounding areas. This move has made us stronger as individuals and as a couple. The amount of love I have for this man grew leaps and bounds since we made this move together to NE Tennessee.

This is only part of the reason I was a ball of emotions.

Yes, although financially we have struggled for way too long, I am going to miss the mountains, the pure beauty of this state. I am going to miss the seasons.

I am going to miss the beauty of this area.

So, our decision was made. We were saying goodbye to Tennessee, which meant a new plan was in place.

Jason was offered two jobs on Sanibel at two restaurants he worked at before we left Florida. Two jobs that are available to him just as soon as he could make his way back to Florida.

Yep, bring on another round of tears . . .

After long, hard discussions and weighing all of our options, the plan that’s in place has my emotions at an all time high. Has Jason’s at an all time high.

I’ll be completely honest. Every time I think of Monday morning the tears begin to form. Anxiety I have not felt since we first moved here is in full swing. With that said, today’s been the first day I have had an easier time breathing.

Monday morning Jason’s hitting the road to head to Florida and start working at the jobs he was offered. Monday morning I will be saying “see you soon” to the love of my life as I stay here in Kingsport and he travels hundreds of miles south.

This was such a hard decision. A decision we both were not too keen on making. A decision we still are not too keen on making. A decision, unfortunately we both know is in our best interest.

My wish is that the time frame we have predicted will be much shorter than we anticipate. A time frame that will bring Jason back to me quicker, so we can pack up our house and get on the road and make our home in Fort Myers once again.

I know Monday is going to be incredibly hard. But, I know our relationship is so strong that we will give each other the strength we need to make this all work. The strength we need to get through us being  a part.

I have so much respect for this man. So much love. He is my dream guy. He is the guy that will move mountains to make things work. He is such a hard working person, such a determined person. I know I will always be okay because I have him by my side.

I cannot wait to join him in Fort Myers and be surrounded by my family once again. I cannot wait to give Dorene a hug and have my best friend within 30 minutes from me.

I know this is the right thing for us to do.

I just hope what the immediate future has to hold will be easier than my brain is telling me.

“It’s a destination”

“It’s a destination”

Historic Arcade Theatre

Shining a spotlight on the Florida Rep

Published in Community Lifestyles South Fort Myers February/March 2015 issue

All photos courtesy of Bryelle Dafeldecker

A Fort Myers theatre, once a Vaudeville house in the 1920s, has attracted local and national attention over the course of its 17 seasons.

The Historic Arcade Theatre, at 2267 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, now home to the Florida Repertory Theatre, was built in 1908 and attracted such first time viewers as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

front coverOver the years, as movies became more and more popular, the building transformed into a movie house throughout the 1920s, remaining successful until the 1970s.

Unfortunately in 1989, the theatre plummeted into severe disrepair.

Bryelle Dafeldecker, Florida Repertory Theatre marking manager, said artistic director Robert Cacioppo, and his wife, Carrie Lund, founded the Florida Repertory Theatre in 1998.

“The City of Fort Myers offered him a theatre in Fort Myers because nothing was going on downtown,” Dafeldecker explained.

Robert Cacioppo

Robert Cacioppo

Now the theatre attracts about 80,000 people annually into the downtown district.

“It’s a destination,” Dafeldecker said.

For the past six years, the Wall Street Journal has reviewed the shows at the Florida Repertory Theatre, making it one of the top repertory companies in the nation.

“After that happened, it brought a lot more attention nationally – and locally,” she said. “We have a really loyal base, which is great.”

She said they offer nine full professional productions per season, from the end of October through May.

“We pay all of our actors and designers and fly them in from various locations from all over the country,” she explained.

A Packed House for August: Osage CountyThere are six productions held on the main stage of the 393- seat Arcade Theatre and three in the smaller studio theater, which comfortably seats 115 guests.

“Fascinatin’ Gershwin” is currently performing, and will do so through Sunday, March 15. Previews are held on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and Thursday, Jan. 29.

Dafeldecker said the review will feature all of Gershwin’s music.

“Around the World in 80 Days” will be held through Wednesday, March 4.

Dafeldecker said that performance is a family-friendly comedy that depicts five actors playing an array of different characters traveling the world.

“Dividing the Estate” will be held from Friday, March 20, through Wednesday, April 8, with previews Tuesday, March 17 through Thursday, March 19.

“Split in Three” will conclude the season with showings from Friday, April 24, through Sunday, May 10. Previews will be held from April 21, through April 23.

In addition to the productions, the theatre also has a thriving education department that sees 17,000 students every year. Programs include Children’s Theatre, Camp Florida Rep, Theatre Conservatory, Classes for Youth & Adults and “ACT UP!” for Children on the Autism Spectrum.

The Children’s Theatre includes Lunch Box Performances for $12 if booked in advance. She said acting interns put on children’s theatre pieces.

"Journey to Oz."

“Journey to Oz.”

“Journey to Oz,” an interactive piece about the “Wizard of Oz” will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m., and the “True Story of the Three Little Pigs,” a rock musical for younger kids, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

The Camp Florida Rep, open to kindergarten through 12th grade students, includes a two-week summer camp program and one-week winter and spring break program.

Dafeldecker said the camp which sells out every year, and puts on a full produced musical in two weeks.

The Theatre Conservatory is an audition-only program held February through May, designed for young actors with moderate to advanced level experience who are interested in theatre.

The classes held for youth and adults cover a vast array of areas that will help beginning artists, serious young artists, professionals and adults seeking something to do.

ACT UP provides youngsters ages 11 to 16 with an opportunity to learn basic acting skills through verbal and nonverbal communication, collaboration, creative movements and improvisation, while interacting with others and making new friends.

“We have fall, winter and spring classes and then in the summer we do summer camps,” Dafeldecker said.

For more information on the Florida Repertory Theatre, its many performances and upcoming camps, call 239-332-4488 or visit FloridaRep.org.

A beautiful life

A beautiful life

My heart is singing. I have the love of a man who would move mountains to make me smile. A man who would do absolutely anything to make my life even more beautiful.

That feeling has consumed me since I returned home from my trip to Fort Myers. A trip that left us apart for almost a week, the longest time spent a part in more than five years.

They say it’s good to spend time apart . . .

I knew that week was going to be hard, but did not know to what extent. There were a couple of things I truly missed while we were apart. Jason kissing me goodbye in the morning before leaving while telling me to have a great day. Surprise visits during the day. Most of all, us not sleeping in the same bed at night, was by far the hardest thing. I sleep so much better knowing he is peacefully laying beside me, or even knowing he is in the same house.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of my trip because I was surrounded by family and friends. It was a trip I needed to take, a trip that was long overdue. A trip that was filled with nonstop laughter as every single one of my siblings gathered together with their loved ones and children.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

The Monday after Christmas, my family had its family Christmas. Mom had 19 people under one roof. All of her kids together for the first time in five years for Christmas. Sometimes it was so hard to hear someone talk because of the booming of laughter that filled a room. New memories were definitely made that day.

Towards the end of the day, we all gathered outside, so my Mom could have pictures with her family. This was specially hard on me. Mom and Dad stood waiting for each one of their children and significant others to surround them, as I snapped a shot. I, of course, took that picture without Jason that day. Although he was not standing beside me, I could still feel the love we share with the hundreds of miles that separated us. I could hear him saying, “I’m glad you are spending time with your family.”

Throughout the week, Jason and I would talk through text messages. Yes, I still received my good morning. Often times we had the opportunity to catch up at night before we both went to bed. I loved those moments because I had the chance to hear his voice.

Our week apart was definitely confirmation that I have truly found my soul mate. I found the love of my life.

Jason was a part of many conversations and in my thoughts as every day unfolded.

The night I met a great friend at the beach to watch a sunset, he was with me. Charlene and I watched the sunset in almost the exact spot that Jason and I have shared many times while enjoying dinner on the beach. I sent him a picture of the sunset. His reply, “Very nice. I can feel it.”

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Those seven days a part showed me yet again that I have true love from a man who loves me to pieces. Although I know he missed me, he was always sending me messages sharing how happy he was that I was with family and friends.

My favorite text was sent the night before I returned home. He had a countdown going of when I was going to be “stuck” with him again. 12 hours and counting . . . that warmed my heart in ways I cannot explain. Jason missed having me home.

When I came around the bend at the airport and saw him standing there, a smile swept across my face in a speed I could not control. I was home. I was in the presence of my man once again. I could tell he was just as equally as excited to see me.

I feel a new kind of closeness to Jason. A new kind of appreciation for one another. The laughter I felt at my parents house, is the same kind of laughter that has filled our home the last couple of nights.

It’s an unexplainable feeling to have that kind of love. A feeling that is sometimes overwhelming. A love that has opened my eyes to all kinds of beautiful moments that were once clouded before.

Jason continues to show me how to appreciate every moment for what it is worth.

This man has helped in creating a beautiful life for the both of us. A beautiful life that continues to excite me as new days unfold.

I am beyond grateful I met this man 19 years ago. It was a true blessing to be reunited with him again more than five years ago. Jason has helped me become a better person. The support he shares often times leaves me speechless.

It’s truly a powerful thing . . . how much someone can impact your life. A positive impact on every aspect of my well-being.

This year has started off with a bang, as I continue to share my life with a man I know I will grow old with.

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

 

“Gallery Hopping”

Gallery Hopping

Take a Trip through the local art world

Published in Cape Coral Community Lifestlyes November/December 2014

Gallery Hopping1Southwest Florida offers a variety of art galleries representing works of art from the 20th century to present day. Make a day – or evening – out of it, and gallery-hop to several fantasticlocal exhibits and displays throughout the area.

There are many opportunities to indulge into the art world through monthly exhibits, independent films and a casual stroll through galleries highlighting talented artists from around the country – and the world.

Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center: Downtown Fort Myers

A building that used to house the U.S. Post Office in the early 1930s was eventually turned into an art center that offers a great deal for residents of Southwest Florida throughout the year.

Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center Assistant Director Devon Parker said the building that houses the center was built in 1933. From then until 1965 the building served as the U.S. Post Office before serving for the federal system as a courthouse until 1998.

The building was eventually purchased by the City of Fort Myers and leased to the nonprofit organization, Sidney & Berne Davis Center, under the conditions that it would be restored and used as a multi disciplinary art center.

“The art center has been opened since 2008,” Parker said.

IMG_4061_stitch-2The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center offers everything from monthly fine art gallery shows to cutting edge theater and independent film, to classical and popular musical concerts, fashion shows and culinary arts, as well as playing host to several networking events throughout the month.

Parker said the center opens a new gallery show on the first Friday of the month during Friday Art Walk.

Last month’s art show featured Stage 16 by Arturo Correa and November will feature Art by Veterans. The last show of the year will be comprised of Abstract 9, a show by students of Florida Southwestern College visual art students.

The center is featuring a new event this season, First Taste Dinner at the Davis, on the first Thursday of the month through June before Art Walk. Individuals will have the opportunity to view a new art exhibition that is paired with a dinner prepared by the center’s new Executive Chef Mike Gavala.

The Ghostbird Theater will feature an original piece “Wooden Mouth” in November, the last one of this year. Independent films are shown on the first Monday of the month and the 5th annual Fort Myers Film Festival gets rolling in March. The concert series, which is always popular among attendees, showcases an array of renowned musicians.

“We have a strong classical concert theater,” Parker mentioned.

The center also hosts an annual fashion show every winter that has grown since its inception.

“We will be entering the third year of the fashion show,” Parker said.

This year it will be held the last weekend of January, Jan. 30 and 31.”

A fundraiser, Cooking for the Arts, was another special event held earlier this month. Parker said it is an interactive cooking fundraiser where attendees helped cook their own dinner with Gavala.

The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is at 2301 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, and available for rentals for special events for individuals or groups. For more information, visit SBDAC.com, or call 239-333-1933.

Reverie & Rock Art Gallery: Downtown Fort Myers

Owners of KMK Publishing, Inc., which publishes Happenings A&E Magazine and Lee Family News Magazine, opened an art gallery downtown in October 2012.

Reverie & Rock Art Gallery Owner Jamie Kuser was among one of the creators of ArtWalk in downtown Fort Myers and was the co-chair for nearly six years. After his wife began doing digitalsurrealism artwork, the idea of opening up a gallery blossomed.

“In the past two years she has sold 75 pieces,” he said.

The gallery is split into two sides, the Reverie showcasing Kathy’s work, and the Rock highlighting Jamie’s photography.

gallery hopping2A magazine graphic designer of 10 years, Kathy puts together fantasy and mystical worlds through placing up to 500 images together to create a specific scene of more than 600 layers. Jamie said his wife will use techniques like lighting and shadows, so the image looks like someone took a picture of a fantasy world.

The prints are done on canvas and often include photographs she has taken at various locations. Jamie said one of her pieces included a picture of a manmade lake and a brick.

“She likes to hide things in the photos,” he said. Jamie, who has photographed live concerts for national performers for almost 20 years, has his work displayed in the gallery, as well. Some of his photography has appeared on tour T-shirts, VHI’s Behind the Music, the Associated Press Archives, as well as Happenings Magazine.

“People look at them and say ‘I have seen them in concert,’” he said. “It provokes memories.”

Before moving to Southwest Florida, Jamie photographed many concerts in Ohio and Michigan.

“I have a preference to 80 rockers,” he said, of who he enjoys photographing.

The genre of music has changed to country music performers since moving to Southwest Florida.

Reverie & Rock Gallery is open one night a month, during ArtWalk. It is also open by appointment. For more information, call 239-278-5236. The gallery is located at 1528 Jackson St., Fort Myers.

Watson MacRae Gallery: A Sanctuary of Art: Sanibel Island

After Maureen Watson had a business in New York City for many years, she left and studied painting.

“I learned a lot about painting and about art, what it takes and what a good painting looks like,” she said. “I learned a lot by doing it. I painted for about three years and I realized I wasn’t going to be good enough to make myself happy.”

gallery hopping3Watson eventually started an art school with artist Hollis Jeffcoat, which remained opened for three years. She said she learned a lot about business and found that her real love was owning a business.

A New York City native, who had lived in Naples for a number of years, had visited Sanibel from time to time before moving back to New York City. She said after hearing that Southwest Florida needed a fine arts gallery, she thought about Sanibel.

“Everything just worked out perfectly,” Watson said of opening Watson MacRae Gallery: A Sanctuary of Art. “It’s a wonderful community.”

The gallery started its seventh season this year on Sanibel, at 2340 Periwinkle Way, Suite B3. Watson said the gallery has been redesigned, providing an opportunity to show additional artists.

Watson MacRae Gallery is a fine art and contemporary craft gallery that features 30 to 50 artists from around the country. Each month during season, October through the end of August, a new themed exhibit graces the gallery.

“I mainly look for people that do things that are very well done,” she said of artists located all over the United States. “That has soul and is visually and emotionally engaging and that can be work in wood or glass.”

Watson said it is like an adventure finding new artists.

“Many are represented in museums, which is a criteria you look for when you look for good artists,” she said. “Sometimes they are in other galleries.”

The first two exhibits of the season will open on Nov. 11. Entitled “Jewelry: More than Adornment,” it will feature seven award winning artists. The exhibit will showcase contemporary handmade jewelry.

“It is an introduction to the expanded jewelry that I am going to show,” she said.

The second show, “Multiples,” will feature an artist’s series or sets of pieces of artwork with nine to 12 pieces.

“Each artist that I am going to show will have at least nine pieces of their work,” Watson said.

The gallery is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 239-472-3386, or visit WatsonMacRaeGallery.com.

 

Best surprise!

I received an amazing surprise from my mom Saturday afternoon. One that I am truly grateful for, one that completely shocked me, one that of course has me smiling still.

I’m going to be with my family for the holidays AND my birthday!!

My mom asked if I wanted to fly home (Fort Myers) for the holidays, her treat. My answer of course came without hesitation, other than let me talk to Jason first.

I cannot fully put into words how excited I became after hearing that offer. I will be in the same state with my family as we all come together to celebrate Christmas!! That right there is the best Christmas present I could receive.

Jason’s response when I told him Mom wanted to fly me home for Christmas left my heart singing. His response too was without hesitation. “Go, go spend Christmas with your family.” This will be the longest we have been a part since we started dating. One full week. That week will include my birthday, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, our first time of being a part on those specific days. I wish Jason could make the trip with me, but I am beyond thankful he is so understanding. He knows I need to spend time with my family.

This will also be the first time I will be a part from Lucy, our puppy. Mom told me I could bring her along, but after looking into a plane ticket for her, I had to rule out that decision. I have a hard time spending $100 one way on a ticket for an animal. I will miss her.

I left Fort Myers April 30, 2013 and haven’t returned since our move to Northeast Tennessee. Although I have seen the majority of my family in either Illinois, Maryland or here in Kingsport since then, I haven’t seen my little sister Maureen and older brother Bill since leaving.

This trip also means I get to see my friends who I miss terribly!

With my excitement fully overtaking me, I sent a text to my great friend Dorene telling her when I will be in town. Her response “Yay! Yay! Yay!” I cannot wait to see her.

I also sent a text to Charlene and Judy, who I also miss like crazy!

Then the texts continued to all of my brothers and sisters.

I loved what response I received from my little brother Tom when I told him I will see him in Fort Myers next month. Tom too moved away from Florida . . .  he lives in Maryland with his wife and two boys.

Within a few minutes my phone rang . . . it was my nephews on the other end. After catching up for a few minutes and sharing our excitement of seeing each other again, Caleb, my 3-year-old nephew got on the phone. What he said melted my heart. “I’ll see you soon.” I can never get enough of spending time with my nephews!

Although I talked with Erin about her recent trip to Florida’s east coast through text messages, we didn’t talk about me traveling to Fort Myers. I was laughing to hard at the description she gave me of the time her and Alex had! I’m excited to see her and her family, including my two nephews!

Later in the afternoon, my brother Bill called. With his hectic schedule we don’t have a chance to talk as much as I know we both would like. It felt great to tell him I will see him soon.

If a phone call with both of my brothers was not enough,  I also talked to my younger sister Maureen for more than an hour last night. That conversation was a perfect ending to my day.

Wait . . . I also talked with Emily, my younger sister through a few text messages before finally going to bed. I could hear and feel her excitment of the news as well.

I actually talked to all of my siblings in one day. I cannot tell you the last time that actually happened. Those conversations only made me miss them more. But, knowing that I get to see them in a little more than a month, priceless!

Thank you Mom. You always seem to know the perfect present to give! I cannot wait to spend time with you and our entire gang!