65 Years of bringing Art to Life in Naples

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Naples Art  Association (NAA) wasn’t an integral part of the  Southwest Florida community. With a history that dates back to 1954, there is much to celebrate during this momentous 65th anniversary season. And, what better way than with a throwback party? The NAA will host a roaring ‘20s For the Love of Art Cocktail Party on Saturday,  April 6 at 7:00 p.m. So, don your best flapper or gangster attire and help us dance the night away in honor of the NAA. When not hosting unique events, the NAA teaches an array of four-week classes and three-hour workshops, hosts nationally recognized outdoor art shows, and shows a stunning rotation of thought-provoking exhibitions.

But, that’s not all. The NAA is quietly behind the scenes forging relationships with other area nonprofits to provide arts education to students with physical disabilities. Through the organization’s SOARing through the Arts outreach programs, the NAA has been able to provide classes for 500 students through five partner organizations. It awarded $52,000 in scholarships to high school students, gave $20,000 in ARTScool scholarships, provided $10,000 in tuition assistance, and gave $30,000 in free art classes – all in the last year alone!

One such outreach program through the STARability Foundation, which supports people with disabilities by providing life transforming opportunities that emphasize teamwork, connection to the community to build awareness, and respect for individual abilities. Beginning in 2016, the NAA and STARability partnered to present “Shooting Beauty” a photography workshop and exhibition. According to Karen Govern, STARability’s executive director, “We were able to put cameras into the hands of 46 individuals, with a variety of challenges, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome and other challenges. Many had never had the opportunity to take photos on their own.

This workshop expanded their vision of our community by taking photos. Our participants have taken some stunning images. The reception that the NAA has hosted for us putting the beautiful photos on display have made our photographers feel like stars. They are so proud of their work and hearing the public praise their efforts is priceless! This is one of our most popular programs we offer and we hope to continue to offer Shooting Beauty twice a year for many years to come.” The NAA also provides a platform for artists to show their work to a large audience (over 80,000 people viewed and purchased art at exhibitions and outdoor shows last year!) and a place where the community is given access to local artwork.

“Having participated in the Naples National Art Show (NNAS) for four years, I know the benefits of a show of this caliber,” said artist Wesley Neal Rasko, NNAS 2018 Best of Show winner. “Being chosen as Best of Show by a panel of respected judges gives me the confidence that my  work is appreciated and admired. There are so many benefits of participating in one of the NAA’s outdoor art shows including the marketing, stunning atmosphere, access to art collectors, and more. I would encourage any artist thinking of participating to take the next step. And, for those in attendance, there is something so special about an outdoor art show.”

The NAA wouldn’t be the artist home that it is without its many dedicated volunteers. Volunteers are the heART and soul of the Naples Art Association. Each year, hundreds of men and women assist at outdoor shows, exhibitions, and even the front desk. Linda Penniman, a longtime NAA volunteer said, “I love the NAA because it supports our amazing local artists. Their classes are wonderful. They do a terrific job of bringing the citizens of Naples and the local artists who have advanced their gift together in informal settings whereby there is an intimate exchange of sharing between the artist and the community.”

Ricki Baker echoes that same sentiment, “No matter how long you call Naples home – year ‘round, part of the year, or a month’s escape from the cold – the Naples Art Association can, does, and will enrich your life. When we arrived in Naples, we were pretty smug about the sophistication and variety of the art where we come from. Happily, we have been thrilled and excited by everything we’ve seen and done at the NAA. The exhibits and special events are sensational, the classes are engrossing and beautifully taught, and our involvement has been warmly welcomed. It’s clear that the professional staff are determined to grow, offer high-quality programs, and have an even bigger impact on the economic well-being of this extraordinary community.”

The Naples Art Association A RICH HISTORY 

1954 – 37 artists found the Naples Art Association.

1980 – NAA members and volunteers host what is now known as the Naples National Art Show, which showcases the work of 300 participating local and nationally recognized artists and their work to an audience of up to 20,000 attendees each February in Cambier Park.

1997 – The NAA begins hosting children’s fine arts classes and free outreach programs for developmentally
disabled students.

1998 – The Naples Art Association’s new 16,000-square foot, two story building is officially dedicated and open to the public.

2000 – The Naples Art Association hosts its first ARTScool program providing children ages five through 17-years-old with individual arts instruction with a side of academics during the summer months.

2016 – The organization officially unveils its new signage recognizing the building as the Naples Art Association.

2017 – The Naples Art Association hosts Naples’ first wearable art show – hailed as the “Fundraiser of the Year” by Florida Weekly.

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