Artfully Yours

Those seeking an art-filled escape will find it in Naples. With galleries and unique street art, here design and creativity are celebrated in a whimsical environment.

Florida is known throughout the world as a haven of beaches, tropical sunsets and a palm trees. But, the state has much more to offer, and Naples is the place to see it. Within the sprawling streets of Naples, art lovers will find work ranging the gamut from fine art to Bohemian trinkets in art galleries, farmers markets and annual art shows. And what’s art without fine food and wine to pair with it? Taking from its Italian namesake, Naples also boasts restaurants and small eateries of international cuisine.

So, put your beach bag away for a day and give yourself a chance to wander through the winding streets of Naples and its artful spirit.

In the downtown Naples area, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants fill Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South: In fact, art is such a part of life in the city that the latter has been dubbed Gallery Row. For decades, the galleries on Third Street South have housed works of art from Europe, Asia and American artists spanning the centuries and styles. Many have been in the area for decades, like the 30-year-old Four Winds Gallery. Inside, explorers can browse through Native American pottery, jewelry, elaborate beadwork, traditional kachina dolls and more. Other galleries, like Gardner Colby Galleries and The Englishman, showcase American and European fine art. Many galleries have chosen Naples as the home for their Florida regional galleries. For those ready to buy, the Naples regional office of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers has an auction in March. In the past, buyers brought home elegant diamond jewelry and antique Chinese pottery.

On Fifth Avenue South, also known as the Business Improvement District by the city, shoppers can window shop through the numerous boutiques and art galleries that line the street. Native Visions Gallery exhibits Florida’s natural beauty in the Everglades to wildlife works across the globe in Africa. For 25 years, the cozy Sheldon Fine Art has displayed dozens of artists’ work, especially ongoing artist showcases.

For those looking for unique gifts for themselves or a friend, Altered Elements is a favorite in the city. On the shelves sits a mix of unique jewelry, clothing and accessories made by local artisans. Also, the store hosts classes in jewelry making and stained glass. For Haitian and Caribbean-inspired works, The Lady From Haiti and Moore offers quirky sculptures, trinkets, wall décor, jewelry and clothing.

With all these galleries and shops to choose from, include them in your Naples vacation itinerary as there are always special shows or grand openings of new series.

A city that loves art would not be complete with its own art institutions. The Philharmonic Center for the Arts and the Naples Museum of Art are open during the art season, which runs from October to June. The 30,000-square-foot museum houses 15 galleries and the building itself is a work of art: The entrance gates were created by metal artist Albert Paley, and the interior’s chandeliers and its pièce de résistance, “Persian Ceiling,” were created by glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Open all year, The Von Liebig Art Center was founded by the Naples Art Association in 1998 after hosting workshops, lectures, festivals, shows and student programs wherever they could since 1954. Today, the 16,000-square-foot center features six studios, six gallery spaces, two collection storage vaults, a catering kitchen and a library. Anyone wanting to learn anything about art in Collier County knows exactly where to go.

A longtime part of the community, the Naples Art Association plans five annual art festivals during the winter months that draw local and visiting art lovers. During the prime of the holiday season, the Fall Fine Arts and Crafts Festival shows off 100 artists and their handmade wares perfect for gifts. Closing off the holidays, the Downtown Naples New Year’s Weekend Art Fair features fine arts from more than 250 artists. At the end of February is the decades-old Naples National Art Festival with 260 artists, food vendors and entertainment. In 2010, it was ranked in the top 10 art festivals by the Sunshine Artist Magazine. The Mercato Fine Arts Festival, the newest one to come to Naples, attracts more than 100 artists who bring their juried work. Finally, in March and the close of the art season, the Downtown Naples Festival of the Arts is a place to browse the works of 250 artists working in media of all kinds.

Throughout the entire art season, check out Art in the Park. Set up alongside The von Liebig Art Center, artists have shown off their masterpieces the first Saturday of the month from November to April since 1957. If Naples is on your vacation itinerary during the winter’s “colder months,” be sure to include one of these festivals in your schedule.

When planning your trip to southwest Florida, remember that there’s more to do than lounge in the sun. Show off that new tan while walking the streets of Naples and explore the endless array of art galleries and boutiques for art lovers of all walks of life.

Christiana Lilly
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