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More than 70 school groups to participate in Fort Myers Art Walk

By Staff | Mar 5, 2020

More than 1,000 students will showcase their artistic talent tonight in Downtown Fort Myers during Fort Myers Art Walk.

The Art Walk will be held Friday, March 6, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the River District of Fort Myers.

Lee County Schools Fine & Performing Arts Executive Director Dr. Doug Santini said the entire school district was invited to participate in the Fort Myers Art Walk. This year more than 70 school groups are participating from 62 schools — approximately 1,600 students from elementary, middle and high school.

Some of the schools from Cape Coral participating include Trafalgar Elementary School, Trafalgar Middle School, Diplomat Elementary School, Diplomat Middle School, Ida Baker High School, Challenger Middle School and Gulf Middle School.

“We are taking over the entire Downtown Fort Myers,” Santini said.

Fort Myers River District Alliance President and CEO Lisa Sbuttoni said when she first started with the River District 18 months ago she was seeking ways to get students involved in very large terms. Soon after she received a letter from Santini stating he wanted to do something with public art for the students.

“I called him and we had the same vision, kind of, of what we wanted to do,” Sbuttoni said, which resulted in devoting one Art Walk to all students. “I have a great staff of people that organize with the students and it’s phenomenal.”

Santini said when he came into his job at the county level he really wanted to get the schools involved in the community and Art Walk provided a great opportunity to showcase the school district.

“It’s one way to show the community what we have, what the kids can do and really advocate for the arts,” he said.

Santini went on to state that for many students in the school district, art is what keeps them interested in what is taking place at school.

“For many of the students in the arts, this is their way to develop friendships, groups and really form relationships with everybody around,” Santini said. “It gives them something worthwhile.”

Santini said the Art Walk is set up for 45 minutes per school at each area.

“It’s wonderful. It’s good exposure for the arts and the towns around the district,” he said.

The performance groups include jazz bands, dancers, vocal ensembles, theater groups, steel drums and Visual Arts program students displaying paintings, photos and projects.

Sbuttoni said all the visual artwork will be located on First Street, as well as nine performance areas throughout downtown with the main stage located at First Street and Hendry Street.

“We have all different types of performing artists that include chorus, theater, marching band, jazz band, orchestras and culinary arts,” she said, adding that last year it was an explosion of all different art forms in Downtown Fort Myers with the students.

Sbuttoni said her vision is for Downtown Fort Myers to become a great memory for future generations. She said the students are growing up in this area, their hometown, where they performed a theater piece or sang on the streets, which creates a legacy and a good feeling about Downtown Fort Myers.

“I want future generations to be proud of themselves and downtown. I think it’s a win-win situation,” Sbuttoni said.

Last year there were 40 school groups that participated in the first Art Walk supporting the students.

“It was well received and many schools wished they took part. This year they are taking part,” Santini said.

Sbuttoni said last year at the end of the night she was walking down the street when an art teacher approached her and thanked her with tears in her eyes. The teacher expressed her gratitude because the students are able to showcase their work with the public providing input, positive input, on their artwork.

In addition, Sbuttoni said the Art Walk brought families downtown that had not been downtown before, or since it was revitalized.

“Downtown Fort Myers has the largest concentration of historic structures anywhere in Southwest Florida with buildings dating back to the 1800s. There is a rich history. A beautiful downtown that I want people to enjoy,” she said.