The Visual Arts Community of Punta Gorda is active, vibrant and innovative. It has also been forced to become self-sufficient. Given its geo-characteristics, it could be compared with an island. It's surrounded by water to its West; by rural land to the East; by no serious visual Art activity to its North (Port Charlotte and North Port); and by an intimidating very art intensive town to its South (Ft. Myers).
When we speak of Visual Arts in Punta Gorda, practically, the only name that comes to mind is The VAC, The Visual Art Center of Punta Gorda. There are other Arts and Cultural Centers such as The Arts & Humanities Council of Charlotte County and The Cultural Center of Charlotte County Inc., but these, do not place emphasis on Visual Arts. There are also some art galleries, but none of the magnitude or importance of the VAC.
Despite the laudable effort by the above mentioned entities and many arts oriented community leaders, Punta Gorda is just above an initial stage with regards to Visual Arts. It hasn't aged yet to be considered at the level of neighboring Sarasota, Fort Myers or Naples… but its great potential will take it there.
The Center was initiated in 1961 by a small group of Punta Gorda artists which organized an outdoor show. An astonishing 3,000 people came. These artists decided that maybe they had something, so they began to organize themselves into the Charlotte County Art Guild, Inc. They began to have informal meetings, organize more art shows, and held art classes in various spots around town: banks, schools, and small storefronts. Membership was opened to the general public sometime in the 1970s.
In the early 1980s, artist Henry Lohse led an energetic charge to get a Visual Arts Center built in Charlotte County. The Guild secured a long-term lease of Punta Gorda City property at Maud Street and West Marion Avenue. Fred Babcock was the first Patron of the Arts and contributed greatly to the building fund.
The Guild began to offer classes in painting and drawing. Exhibits were organized. The first juried art exhibition, the Harvest of Art 1988 was held at the First Federal Bank. Today, the VAC is the proud presenter of the most important arts festival in the county, the Peace River National Arts Festival and excels in Visual Arts education.
Currently, The Visual Art Center of Punta Gorda stands tall and, thanks to its devoted Management group, it leads the way of the Visual Arts in Charlotte County.
What is now the Cultural Center campus was founded in January 6, 1968. Its impressive building is located at 2280 Aaron St. in Port Charlotte.
The Center's strength rely on it's diversity of activities and its great support to the senior population of Charlotte County. They sponsor many community oriented events that range from performing arts and art education, to bingo, chess and dances. They offer dining facilities, retail stores and even a produce market. They are truly versatile.
The Center is run with discipline by a strong team of officers who show deep passion for the Arts. This unique organization offers a broad program of cultural and entertainment activities for the adult and the young Community of Charlotte County.
The Arts & Humanities Council of Charlotte County, Inc., a non-profit 501 C3 organization, is the official Local Arts Agency dedicated to supporting and promoting local visual artists, musicians, theater groups, dance studios, writers and cultural organizations. They show unsurpassed and passionate commitment to Arts.
Among the arts programs they promote are: "The Charlotte Harbor Artsensation" and Art in Public Places. They maintain an on-line "Weekly Cultural Calendar" which is of great help as support to artists, as well as a valuable information source for County residents that seek to attend visual and performing Arts events. Their main thrust seems to be the Performing Arts, to which they show a firm commitment.
The purpose of the organization is to advocate, promote and develop the cultural climate of Charlotte County by promoting artists and arts organizations of all disciplines and encouraging the enjoyment and participation of our residents, students, and visitors.
We are starting to notice a great Art Gallery "ambiance" in Punta Gorda. There is a small group of nice art galleries which are opening opportunities to our local artists. This provides a strong motivation and encouragement to our art community, which keeps getting larger and stronger.
Among the art galleries group we find: Sea Grape Gallery, which is a reputable coop gallery; Presseller Gallery and Sunart Gallery and Custom Framing, both of which are owned by known community leaders Pat and Jerry Presseller; Vicki Glynn Gallery & Frame; and perhaps another two or three of smaller operation. The rest are well managed framing shops, many with the potential to evolve into nice fine art galleries.