The Alliance for the Arts, in partnership with Family Initiative Inc., will formally launch weekly art classes for young artists with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in January 2017. The program, ArtPlay, is designed to engage children with ASD in the arts while focusing on identity development, self-awareness, self-esteem, social communication and building positive coping skills.  The project has garnered support from Suncoast Credit Union, Cape Coral Community Foundation, and the Sylvia Meisenberg Trust.

ArtPlay classes, designed for young artists under 18, are taught by a certified art therapist and supported by an Accredited Behavioral Analyst.

“We are proud to work with Family Initiative to expand art opportunities to young artists with autism,” says Alliance for the Arts executive director Lydia Black.

ArtPlay classes are Thursdays from 4:30 – 6 p.m. Session one is Jan. 19, 26 and Feb. 1, 9. Session 2 is Feb. 16, 23 and March 2. Session 3 is March 16, 23, and 30. The program takes place at the Alliance for the Arts.

The cost is $10 per class, which includes art supplies. Pre-registration is required. Students must respond to verbal direction, independently toilet, and not require one-on-one supervision.

The Alliance for the Arts January exhibition Changing States: Krieger, Riner & Weber opens Friday. Jan. 6 from 5-7 p.m. The exhibit continues until Jan. 28. Meet featured artists Jim Krieger, Kimberly Riner, and Dale Weber during a conversational Walk & Talk as they discuss their works in this exhibition on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m.

During this exhibition, A.J. Weber will be on display in the Member Gallery and Broadsides: Poetry Off the Self will be exhibited in the Theatre Gallery.

Changing States: Krieger, Riner & Weber incorporates various materials shaped by industry or nature. This show will feature pieces which have been repurposed to embrace concepts of symbolic imagery, grief, awareness and change.

“Everything deserves a second look; a second chance,” says exhibiting artist Dale Weber. “Perhaps together we will begin to see our surroundings with new eyes. Awareness is the first step of change.”

The opening reception will feature craft spirits and liquors by local distillery List Distillery. The exhibit is sponsored by Covanta Energy.

In honor of Giving Tuesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook pledged to contribute up to a $1 million match to #GivingTuesday fundraisers on Facebook (up to $1,000 per fundraiser). Thanks to the generosity of community members, the Alliance for the Arts received is proud to announce that it will receive $1,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is the first time the Alliance has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Alliance Facebook fundraising campaign raised over $3,000 on Giving Tuesday.

The Alliance for the Arts is a nonprofit dedicated to infusing the southwest Florida community with arts programming through diverse, innovative and balanced program of performances, events, community building and educational projects that reach the widest possible audience. Proceeds from Giving Tuesday will support continued affordable family programming such as the Alliance Outdoor Family Movie Night series and art scholarships for artists of all ages.

“The arts give so much to our community: creativity, connection and a new way of seeing things,” said Jessica Clark, Development Director. “Theology aside, the arts also serve as a key industry to yield economic growth by stimulating southwest Florida’s creative economy.”

The Alliance for the Arts will present Story Slam on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. on. This event features 10 area story tellers who recount a variety of narratives. From personal tales to folktales, fractured fairytales and more, these stories will appeal to emotion and imagination.

“We’re excited to host an event where individuals can get inspired and be entertained by a variety of narratives,” says Executive Director Lydia Black. “After all, storytelling is a fundamental human need.”

The group has been staging smaller storytelling events over the past year. Tickets to this event are $10 for Alliance members and $15 for non-members.


About the storytellers:

Mary Lou Williams is a retired teacher.  She first became interested in storytelling when she heard an Appalachian storyteller at an Elderhostel in Boone, North Carolina.  She has been hooked ever since.  She has served on the board of the Florida Storytelling Association and has produced local storytelling workshops and concerts featuring national tellers.  She is also a member of Toastmasters International and the Tamiami Tale Tellers.

Tashahara Jallad joined Toastmasters International in 2008. After achieving the level of Distinguished Toastmaster, she began to explore storytelling. She joined the Florida Storytelling Association and started the Storytellers of the Round Table. Tashahara adapts and weaves universal messages that touch the heart, challenge the mind, and lift the spirit. She believes that a story is the shortest distance between two hearts.

Dwight Elam was born in Lexington, Kentucky.  He is a former school teacher, college professor, and currently ministers at First Christian Church in Punta Gorda.  He comes from a long line of liars, also known as storytellers.  His daddy said that he was vaccinated with a phonograph needle.  Dwight is a member of Toastmasters International, the Tamiami Tale Tellers, and the Florida Storytelling Association.

Robert David is a Florida native who joined Toastmasters as a way to challenge himself and get out of his comfort zone. He is new to storytelling. Tonight he will be speaking about something else that makes him uncomfortable: flying.

Rhonda Brazina has always loved stories. From her childhood to her teaching days … to reading to her own children, she has loved the art of storytelling. She wanted to write a children’s book to tell a story for children and achieved this in 2011 when she and her friend wrote “Carrots for Charlie”, a book set in Naples with a positive message about health and fitness. These days as a Toastmaster and aspiring actor, Rhonda enjoys writing stories and telling them to all who will listen.

Keith Connes created TV commercials, which was his introduction to fiction writing.  He gave that up for writing non-fiction aviation articles and books and, more recently, collections of short stories.  During the past 15 years, he has been a member of various Toastmaster clubs in California and Florida, where his favorite preoccupation has been the telling of tall tales.  This evening he will present not one but two tall tales.  Not to worry; they are short.

Lisa Leonhardt is a fourth grade teacher at Tice Elementary.  She tells stories to her students, her family, and to anyone else who will sit still for a story.  Lisa credits her grandfather and an elementary school librarian for sparking her interest in storytelling.  She has been a longtime member of the Tamiami Tale Tellers and together with Marilyn Graham has kept storytelling alive and thriving in Fort Myers for 20+ years.

Joel Ying is a Naples physician practicing integrative & holistic health in his private practice. He originally joined Toastmasters in 2009 to improve his public speaking presentations. As he advanced as a speaker, he discovered the art of storytelling and the National Storytelling Festival. He became a storyteller and initiated a series of StorySlams, including this one.  In the present Age of Information, it is not the data but the stories that captivate, inspire, and motivate us. Join him as he spins an original tall tale … or is it true?

Pamela Minton comes from a family of storytellers and continues the tradition.  She is a retired professor of speech from Edison College and holds a Master of Arts in Communication from Brigham Young University.  She is a member of Toastmasters International and earned the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, the highest award that Toastmasters bestows.  She is also a published author of Lessons of the Spider.

Marilyn Graham retired in 2014 from a 40 year career as a librarian and library administrator.  She was introduced to storytelling when she worked as a children’s librarian during her career.  She has been a member of the Tamiami Tale Tellers for 20+ years and has organized and produced many of its storytelling programs and workshops.  Marilyn is now an award winning photographer.

Scott. J Vail is a United States Navy veteran, an entrepreneur, and a professional speaker.  He is a Toastmaster who has achieved the Distinguished Toastmaster Award, the highest honor that Toastmaster bestows.  He is a husband and father of two young children.  He is an MC extraordinaire.

Celebrate poetry and art during the opening reception for Broadsides: Poetry off the Shelf at the Alliance for the Arts on Thursday, January 12 at 7 PM. Broadsides features the words of 15 poets merged with images created by 15 visual artists into printed posters.

“Broadsides are a form of written communication, typically designed to be posted in a public place,” says Krista Johnson, Exhibitions Coordinator. “Traditionally, broadsides contain a mixture of text and images.”

Participating artists include:

Juli Bobman • Katherine Boren • Andy Browne • Brian Cast • Geoff Coe • Laurent Dareau • Paula Eckerty • David Gittleman • Ken Lamers • Colleen North • Rick Plummer • Sherry Rohl • Beverly Taht • Sarah Tumm • Pat Zalisko

Participating poets include:

Ray Baldwin • Jamilla D. Brooks • Sherry Campbell • Sara Fitzpatrick Comito • Lee Dunne • Dan Reed England • Richard Fox • Dan Graveley • John Merchant • Joseph Pacheco • Dobie Pasco • Joyce Peseroff • Sharon Whitehill • Lorraine Walker Williams • Joan Heller Winokur

There is a $10 suggested donation. Limited edition prints of the broadsides will be exhibited in the Alliance theatre lobby until Jan. 28 and will be available for purchase