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Everyone is Welcome

Everyone is Welcome

by Brandi Couse, Director of Operations and Education, Alliance for the Arts

The Alliance for the Arts is many things for many people.  For some it is a place to buy fresh, local produce on a Saturday morning or a place to watch a movie with family and friends under the stars on a Friday night.  For others it is a place to show their artwork or to enjoy the works of others.  Some come to share their love of art by teaching while others come to make art while taking a class.  Still others come to enjoy a concert, attend a festival, or take in a theatre show.  People come to connect with friends and neighbors.

In the fall of 2016 Mary Ann and Will Grignon, President and member of the Southwest Florida Council of the Blind, reached out to explore what the Alliance could become for them.  The timing was perfect!  Concerts, theatre shows, and festivals were all on the schedule.

But even better, the art show in the main gallery had multiple three-dimensional works.  The couple would be able to touch the works they could not see.

As often happens in life, things did not go as planned.  When May Ann and Will arrived the gallery show had changed and there wasn’t a single three-dimensional piece of art work present.  Undeterred, an Alliance staff member offered to lead the visitors though a tour of the galleries.  She described what she saw and they all discussed the art work.  They spent over an hour together sharing, exploring, and enjoying.

When the couple left everyone had smiles on their faces.  We experience the world through our senses but we are not all the same.  It was such a joyous feeling knowing that everyone was welcome and able to experience the impact of art in their lives.  It became even more exciting when Mary Ann and Will reached out to Executive Director Lydia Black to explore further ways the Alliance could increase access to the arts.  Mary Ann and Will had lived in larger cities where there were greater opportunities for all.  From their experience on that gallery visit they decided the Alliance was the place to start to grow that access in Ft. Myers.

Today, with a community impact grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Alliance is creating an enhanced accessibility theatre project for individuals with hearing and visual impairment.  Accessibility at the Alliance will provide amplified audio for theatregoers experience hearing loss and pre-show touch tours and audio description for individuals with vision loss or who are blind.  Just imagine knowing there are wonderful things in the world you can’t fully enjoy and then realizing there is a place where you can.  It is part of the Alliance’s mission to be that place.

The Alliance for the Arts is a nonprofit community arts and cultural center located in the heart of Fort Myers, Florida.  For over 40 years the Alliance has been charged with the mission to facilitate and nurture the creation, development, promotion and education of arts and culture in southwest Florida.  The Alliance campus and galleries are open to the public from 9AM to 5PM Monday through Friday and from 9AM to 1PM on Saturdays, located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard just south of Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers.  For more information about Accessibility at the Alliance and other programing, visit or call 239-939-2787.  Find us on Facebook( or follow us on Twitter (@ArtInLee).

This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2017 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2017 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 


About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
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. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $111 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit or call 239-274-5900.


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!