Find 200 of some of the most accomplished artists in the nation at ArtFest Fort Myers — Photo courtesy of ArtFest Fort Myers
Each February, a busy downtown Fort Myers street bans cars in lieu of tents – tents full of eye-catching art from across the country – for the annual ArtFest Fort Myers.
From meager beginnings about 15 years ago, this show has grown to become one of the most popular in the area and one of the most respected art events in the country, according to ArtFest Executive Director Sharon McAllister.
She says there's typically around 900 applications submitted for 200 artist spots. That means less than 25 percent of the right brainers who apply get an invitation.
“There are maybe 25 [art shows] in the entire country that have the same percentage," says McAllister.
What does that mean for the attendees? It means you're treated to a great variety of work from some of the best artists on the festival circuit. This giant outdoor gallery features everything from metal sculptures to watercolor paintings, photography, jewelry and everything in between. The variety of offerings is consistently impressive.
Some 60,000 people attend ArtFest each February in Fort Myers — Photo courtesy of ArtFest Fort Myers
For people who may be intimidated by traditional art galleries, this event is an outstanding way to learn about art, talk to those who created it and start a collection that you like, not some faceless critic.
It’s fascinating to see the photographs these artists are able to capture, the things they can craft from ordinary objects and the scenes their minds and hands can translate onto a blank canvas.
Not only will the diversity appeal to almost everyone, but so will the price range. You’ll be able to find items, such as a pottery spoon rest, for under five dollars or pay tens of thousands of dollars for more intricate sculptures and other items.
It’s not just the art that attracts some 60,000 to the annual event, but also the location along Edwards Drive, a downtown street that borders the city’s historic Centennial Park along the Caloosahatchee River. It's a popular place to stroll year-round, but especially during special events.
While the vendors take over the street, the park is home to food trucks, entertainment and tents full of interactive art events for kids.
ArtFest features student exhibits and art activities for the kids — Photo courtesy of ArtFest Fort Myers
In fact, ArtFest features a student exhibition where aspiring artists can win thousands of dollars in cash awards. The backing for budding artists doesn’t end when the weekend is over, either. ArtFest supports arts in the classroom year-round, with grants, after-school programs and professional artist interactions.
Always trying new things, the festival is hosting its first 5K run through downtown and over the river, via the Edison Bridge, in 2015.
Taking place the first weekend in February, the event is free. However, you can purchase VIP packages that include access to an opening night reception and special parking privileges for the entire weekend. The passes also grant you free food and drinks, along with a shaded place to sit when you need a break from the action.