The Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center is a multicultural arts venue in Fort Myers that features a constantly-rotating bill of performances and exhibitions from a wide range of contemporary musicians, painters and sculptors. The main exhibition and performance space in the Center comprises 8,000 square feet on the building’s ground floor and has played host to performances by classical musicians from Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and exhibitions by nationally-renowned local artists Leoma Lovegrove, David Acevedo, Marcus Jansen and Ronnie Ford.
The Art Center is a cornerstone of the Fort Myers Art Walk, which connects more than a dozen art galleries and venues in the city’s downtown River District. The Art Walk takes place at 6 p.m. on the first Friday of every month. Coinciding with the Art Walk, the Art Center often hosts the opening of new exhibitions, usually accompanied by live musical entertainment. On Mondays, the Center hosts screenings of independent films, and art classes are taught on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Charity fundraiser events and galas are regularly featured at the Art Center, which is also available for private functions and events.
Built in 1933 as a U.S. Post Office, the regal Art Center building was designed by prominent architect Nat Gaillard Walker in a grand neoclassical revival style, with limestone columns featuring inset coral and seashells. Until 1967, the building was the official post office for Fort Myers until it was converted to a courthouse that year, which was its function until 1998. Nonprofit organization Florida Arts leased the building from the city in 2003 and converted it to its present form as an exhibition and performance venue in 2008. Private donors Sidney and Berne Davis were instrumental in helping to establish the Art Center which bears their names. Ms. Davis was a social friend of Mina Edison, the wife of famous light bulb inventor Thomas Edison, who was Fort Myers’ most notable resident and namesake for local landmarks and institutions Edison Bridge, Edison State College and the Edison Winter Estate museum.
The state and federal government both support the arts center and allow it to make its facilities available to young and old artists alike in the local area. Future renovation plans include a media room, working artists’ studios and a rooftop sculpture garden. In 1995, the building was featured in the movie Just Cause, starring Sean Connery, Scarlett Johansson and Laurence Fishburne. In 2001, local artist Jim Sanborn created a bright and colorful light sculpture installation, titled Caloosahatchee Manuscripts, that bathes the Art Center in projected lettering every night.
Scheduled exhibitions and opening hours of the Art Center can be found on their website.