For the first time, the River District Alliance closed the streets in downtown for Fort Myers ArtWalk in Florida, but it wasn’t their idea and it’s going to cost them.
The River District Alliance says it’s only policy to close streets is when they serve alcohol or bring in heavy crowds and that their ArtWalk is alcohol-free and, in the summer, foot traffic is minimal. However the police say the increase in foot traffic spilling over from the sidewalks to the street is causing a safety hazard, and closing off the streets and forcing them into buying the permits to do so, each month, is the safest option.
Fort Myers Police said the reason Friday’s ArtWalk was treated differently than any other in the past six years is because “sidewalks have been blocked in the past, causing pedestrians and attendees to spill out into the street, causing a safety hazard.”
Fort Myers Police are now pushing them into purchasing permits and to close streets at a cost of $800, and the mandatory change is not going to be easy and may spell disaster for the monthly event.
Pam Lemmerman, local organizer said, “We don’t have that stuff in the street. I mean even if we have an artist in the street it’s not making noise, it’s not… it’s not drawing the crowds. They might have 10 or 12 people but we can easily do something like that up on the sidewalk.
“We just wish we could have been more involved in addressing this situation. Maybe with more crossing guards; a different approach than closing the streets,” said Jason Kohn, owner of Shop Pizza.
On the First Friday of each month from 6-10 p.m. over eleven art galleries invite locals and visitors to a self-guided walking tour throughout the Downtown Fort Myers River District core and the Gardner’s Park area. Art enthusiasts can “Meet the Artists” at most of the art galleries and enjoy the live art demonstrations throughout the River District.
An evening of Visual Arts Gallery Openings & More is what Fort Myers has to offer its Art Walk visitors and now they will have to adopt safety precautions go hand and hand with building a successful artwalk.
The Fort Myers Art Walk was organized in October 2008 by Greg Knezevich, Claudia Goode, Andy Howl, Jamie Kuser, Terry Tincher, David Acevedo, Xavier Brignoni, and Jim Griffith (among others) to unify the downtown Fort Myers art galleries into a singular active and vocal organization that helps the River District be a “must-see” destination spot and a point of interest for new businesses.
Many of the founding members have moved on but their hearts are filled with love for this event and the River District. The River District Alliance said the extra cost could prevent future events from taking place.