Established in 1954, Naples Art is the city’s oldest serving nonprofit. And while some people may see their mid-60s as a time to relax and slow down, Naples Art continues to expand, evolve and accelerate forward.
“A group of artists created Naples Art. As well as teaching in the community, it was an opportunity for them to show their own work,” says Ricki Baker, president of the Naples Art board of directors. “Today, we do everything from classes designed for the beginner through accomplished, experienced seasoned artists … to several outdoor art shows that have been going on in Naples for decades.”
Those outdoor shows, which include Art in The Park, Naples National and the Downtown Art Show, as well as the variety of visual arts classes for all ages and mediums, have long been a part of the mission of changing lives through artistic expression. However, like so many other organizations, the daily operations of Naples Art were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And that, according to Baker, was both a curse and a blessing.
“We have, like a lot of other nonprofits, been incredibly and adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us to close. But we’ve taken the opportunity to think
through a lot of those really big questions that we might not have had time to consider,” Baker says. “We have been using the last [several] months in intensive thinking about reimagining what we want to be … as we emerge into the post-pandemic age and into the future.”
Part of that reimagining was the introduction of Art, Naples Art’s first community goodwill ambassador. In addition, the organization’s newly reopened gallery features a new gift shop called Originals. While Originals will serve as an exclusive source of works from artists and artisans around the country, Baker says that’s only part of the organization’s desire to broaden the scope of its offerings.
“We see an opportunity to bring visual arts instruction, appreciation and involvement to underserved communities, whether that means they’re artistically underserved or economically underserved,” Baker says. “There are more and more young people and young families coming into our community. There’s more competition for people’s time and attention. It has really required us to focus on not just the basics, but how we sustain the organization and how we remain faithful to our mission and vision in what is a changing community.”
Even as Naples Art moves forward with new programs, outreach and a newly renovated facility, there are still more exciting projects in the planning stages. They’re all part of Naples Art’s goal to serve as an artistic destination moving forward.
“The other thing that we’re doing more and more is collaborating with other arts institutions, so that other nonprofits, who are themselves in the world of the arts, have an opportunity to collaborate with one another. It just enriches the community, and it makes it so much more vibrant and exciting,” Baker says. “That’s what we [believe] is going to be the new Naples Art. Not forsaking anything that … got us here but adding to it a much broader perspective and engaging more people in the arts. We’re open to all of it … because these don’t have to be just visual arts programs. That’s consistent with our goal to be the central address for visual art in downtown Naples.”