Close this search box.

Log in

Top Stories

Three months after the Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda celebrated its 60th anniversary this spring, its executive director stepped down and a newcomer took the helm.

Lisa Gallucci had been traveling around the South, searching for a new career, when her son in North Port urged her to consider Southwest Florida. Soon after, Janet Watermeier, the VAC’s executive director for six years, decided to focus on personal pursuits and family and was searching for a replacement.

Gallucci, who relocated to North Port in February, began on July 1, bringing with her a background in human resources, finance and dance. Most recently, she’d worked as a consultant and coach, helping nonprofits and businesses develop leadership skills while implementing policies and procedures to enhance business acumen.

“I’m overwhelmed at the number of artists and art that’s here,” says Gallucci, who will oversee a roughly $700,000 budget and a staff of nine, who are mostly part-time. “I want to learn everything about the center by doing each event.”

She said that the arts have been a consistent part of her life and career: “Growing up and working in a dance school [and] a public television station, and participating as a member of the board of directors for a ballet company, are just a few of the career steps that I feel will contribute to continuing successful management of the Visual Arts Center,” she says.

The center began in 1961 as an outdoor show that drew 3,000 people, prompting artists to create the Charlotte County Art Guild and launch meetings, shows and classes. In the early 1980s, artist Henry Lohse pushed to build a Visual Arts Center and obtained a long-term lease for city property at 210 Maud St.

In 1985 and 1987, the Guild received matching grants from the state Division of Cultural Affairs, and construction began in February 1988. The center, which opened in 1989, was built in phases as money was raised. In 2018, it partnered with The Patterson Foundation in Sarasota and began building an art and supply store within the center.

The 12,000-square-foot contemporary building features three galleries, a library, a gift shop gallery, five classrooms and a pottery studio. Fiber classes are held in a yellow house the center rents about two minutes away in History Park. Twelve-week classes for all ages are offered in January, September and summer and include jewelry, fiber arts, glass, fused glass, pottery, photography, charcoal sketching, wire wrapping and painting.

“One of my goals is to increase our reach and bring in younger donors and members, so they can grow with the Visual Arts Center. A lot of our donors are older, so we need to keep things fresh and bring in new people,” Gallucci says.

She’s working with chambers and art organizations, such as the Florida Watercolor Society, plans to partner with another art center to share resources and patronage, hopes to bring in new exhibits, especially sculpture, and is promoting children’s programs to parents.

“We also need to promote the summer camp because a lot of parents work and need a place for their kids while working,” she adds.

To extend reach beyond Charlotte and Lee counties, she does Facebook Live events, maintains a social media presence and created a TikTok account. She’s also working to replenish volunteers who left during COVID-19. “We have a wonderful volunteer coordinator and have 50-100 volunteers, but I want to build it to 200,” she says.

The center holds open houses in January and September. A key fundraiser is the Peace River National Arts Festival, a juried art show in Laishley Park in December (the Winter Fest) and spring. Another is the Battle of the Brushes, where six professionals become celebrity artists, get matched with artist instructors in September and create an art project that’s auctioned off during a November grand finale and dinner.

Gallucci also plans fun events on Valentine’s Day and a high tea on Mother’s Day. “It’s a nice way to get people in to find out who we are and what we do,” she explains.

In her spare time, she paints, writes children’s books and is working on an adult Sci-Fi mystery. Until she finds a permanent home, she’s living with her son; her other twin son, who lives in San Antonio, plans to move to this area in 2023.

VAC President Donna Peterman is confident they’ve selected a director who will bring in fresh ideas and new energy, she said, adding, “We all look forward to working with Lisa to enhance productivity and position the facility for today’s challenges and future growth.”

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

Don't Miss

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Please note that article corrections should be submitted for grammar or syntax issues.

If you have other concerns about the content of this article, please submit a news tip.