When residents of Shell Point Retirement Community in Fort Myers decided to build an arts center, they wanted to ensure all their needs were covered, from the quilters group to musicians, artists and photographers.
What resulted—a collaboration among Christopher J. Lee Architects of North Fort Myers, Wegman Design Group of Naples, Gates Construction of Bonita Springs and others—was just what residents envisioned: Tribby Arts Center, named after Maggie Tribby, 96, the donor who kicked off the fundraising campaign.
“Residents had different pockets of studios around the campus,” Shell Point Director of Operations Adam Hinds says, adding that the state-of-the-art center provides a central location. “We had no intention of building an arts center, but we said, ‘Sure, but you need to fund it.’ The majority came from Maggie Tribby.”
Hinds adds, “The interior designer and architect did a great job of taking residents’ input, then putting their finishes on, and Lori Wegman ensured the art center’s interior design was consistent with our campus.”
The $25 million, 44,000-square-foot center on 11.4 acres opened in 2021. It features a grand entrance surrounded by palms, a spacious atrium lobby with kinetic sculptures and a plaque listing donors, an indoor-outdoor cafe, art galleries for residents, regional and national artists, a gift shop, practice rooms and studios for painting, crafts, quilting, pottery, glass work, matting art and photography. The lobby leads to Connie Brown Hall, a 400-seat theater with dressing rooms and a loading bay designed by TSG Design Solutions that’s used for the Shell Point Fine & Performing Arts Series and Academy of Lifelong Learning lectures.
“We hired an acoustic consultant to make sure it was right,” Hinds says of Gainesville-based Siebein Acoustic, adding that Southwest Florida Symphony, Gulfshore Ballet, chamber and theater groups perform there.
The project won the Grand Aurora Award from the Florida Homebuilders Association and the Southeast Building Conference for architecture and interior design innovations for commercial projects over 20,000 square feet.
The stunning exterior features a contemporary, geometric design, with whites, grays and wood accents. Outside, an English sculpture garden designed by Stantec is dotted with figurative sculptures, including Maggie Tribby and her dog on a bench and a seated man reading a newspaper. Parts of the building’s lower level sustained water damage during Hurricane Ian, but repairs were completed in January.
All resident groups provided input to a design team. For example, quilters wanted bigger cabinets, others wanted lockers or open cubby holes, artists wanted lots of light and display areas, while photographers wanted no light for their darkroom, studio and digital graphics space.
Even avid readers got a carpeted literary lounge with cozy pale blue and green chairs, shelves filled with books donated by residents and resident authors and an extensive art book collection. The relaxing space features hanging billowy white lights resembling sea urchins, and industrial white ceilings with oak planks.
The interior design features neutrals—grays, whites, blacks and touches of oak throughout. Flooring ranges from gray carpeting to wide-plank floors and a custom-designed, sparkling terrazzo pattern in the grand lobby. That pattern was inspired by two multicolored kinetic sculptures Seattle artist Andrew Carson created for the lobby; they also can be viewed from a glass balcony above.
Unusual contemporary lighting choices abound, such as cloudlike lights in the lobby and Hollywood lights encircled by stainless steel in dressing rooms. There are four galleries, nine studios, practice rooms, ensemble rooms and conference rooms.
Soundproof glass and acoustic walls ensure musicians in other studios can’t hear each other while practicing or performing, while spacious windows and high industrial white ceilings provide art studios with lots of light. The pottery and glass studios feature kilns, and all art studios offer lots of work space, storage and display shelves.
There’s also a ballet studio with a padded floor, storage under benches and a back door for easy entry during performances. It’s also used for yoga and other resident-life activities.
Resident Curator Marge Lee, one of numerous volunteers, retired from an interpretive museum planning career where she last worked with curators to tell the story of exhibits. She used her skills to help the design team and set up exhibits. Slat-walls ensure shows can easily be switched out and installed.
“This is fabulous,” Lee says, noting that the lobby reflects the area, with clouds, trees and rivers. “The residents had a unique opportunity. We met with separate members of art groups, so these studios really reflect what our residents wanted.”