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Community Foundation showcases Wide Open Spaces exhibit

Community Foundation showcases Wide Open Spaces exhibit

New exhibit features Florida outdoors by two local artists 

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2016) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted more than 50 guests at its Community Hub for the launch of its new art display “Wide Open Spaces,”

The exhibit features the Florida outdoors through the eyes of local artists Martin Gembecki and Brad Phares.

Buckingham resident Gembecki is a North Fort Myers High School and Ringling School of Art and Design graduate in the field of illustration. After graduation, he worked for local ad agencies before becoming a firefighter but remained self-employed as an artist. While fishing with friends, he would photograph local wildlife and produce pieces of art based on the Matlacha, Pine Island Sound areas.

“My love of Florida cowboys and their culture began with the help of Latt Armeda,” Gembecki said. “Latt and his family invited me to visit their ranch in Alva to photograph and help work their cows.”

This invitation led to Gembecki to be able to pursue painting what he captured in acrylic, and today he is living his dream of being a Florida cowboy artist.

Phares is an eighth generation rancher, artist, poet, writer and attorney from Okeechobee. After graduating from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture and later from St. Thomas University School of Law with a Juris Doctor, he chose to focus on his art rather than pursuing a career as an attorney.

“I’ve channeled my childhood experiences working on my family’s ranch with my multi-faceted background into oil paintings and writings to provide a perspective on ranch life unlike any other,” Phares said. “I want to enlighten others as to the invaluable benefits that Florida ranches provide to our state’s ecosystem and economy.”

The majority of Phares’s work captures and represents a realist view of ranch life in America today rather than an overly romanticized version that so many people in urban areas hold. He has exhibited throughout the southeastern U.S., and his paintings are collected by private corporations and public institutions as well as the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The exhibit is open to the public and will run through mid-January during regular Community Foundation business hours: Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some photos are located in meeting rooms, so those interested in seeing the exhibit are asked to call before arriving to make sure all areas are accessible. The Community Hub is located at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 201 in Fort Myers.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit

Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Our ambition is a more vibrant community that will continually address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties in Southwest Florida. We invite you to join our family and invest in the community with us!