NORTH NAPLES — Some 40 to 50 protesters added their own heat to the 85-degree temperatures on the sidewalk around Artis—Naples on Monday afternoon, waving signs as members of the performing arts complex board of directors arrived for their first fall meeting.
The group, from the “Save the Phil” organization, meant to be a visible protest to the name change of the former Philharmonic Center for the Arts at 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd. Picketers’ signs generally stuck to that theme, although one with a more specific grievance declared “No booze in Hayes hall!”
It’s a reference to the organization’s decision to allow customers to bring in beverages to nearly all concerts. Another sign demanded a “New board and CEO.”
Artis—Naples’ board of directors and CEO/President Kathleen van Bergen announced a name change for the former Philharmonic Center for the Arts on April 19, and the groundswell of protest since has led to a petition that claims to have 13,000 signatures.
The protest group also has met with several members of the board of directors. However, Artis—Naples is pressing on, with name changes in its publicity, website and marketing. The building’s old sign came down recently, and a new one proclaiming the place Artis—Naples is scheduled to go up soon.
Sandy Leddy, the director for Monday’s protest, dismissed the Artis—Naples rationale that a new name could attract a younger crowd.
“Look at all these people,” Leddy said, nodding at the seniors who constituted the pickets. “They’re the ones who have been paying the money to come here.”
The performing arts center and museum has been built with community donations and tickets, and those voices were the ones that need to be heard, she insisted.
The youngest protesters were two dental assistants from a nearby office who know former CEO and founder Myra Janco Daniels.
“We feel for her. She built this building,” explained Maria Viera, who had taken her break to walk over and join the protesters. “I can see that she’s not happy with all the changes.”
Charles Carignan cycled three miles from home to carry his sign. Still wearing his sun protector and helmet, he stopped to point out an academic dispute with the new name.
“I had four years of Latin when I was in school,” he said. “Artis means ‘of art.’ If they had wanted it to be named in Latin, ‘ars’ is the correct word. If they wanted to name the building properly in Latin, it would be ‘Collegium Artium.’”
Artis—Naples management offered a reply statement to the event, which read in part:
“While we value and honor what has been accomplished in the organization’s first 25 years, we also have a duty to plan for its future. Our recent changes, including our new name, announce our platform for the future and embrace all of our programmatic offerings for the entire community.
“It reflects our evolution into a diverse cultural institution that is a truly integrated and dynamic center for the arts that will serve the population of our region for generations to come.”
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