Before I get to the big reveal below, for those of you who summer elsewhere, you need to know that you are missing one of the most glorious sights anywhere—arguably the finest example of nature’s paintbrush—the blooming of the Royal Poinciana trees. From my office window high above Pelican Bay, I can spot massive flashes of red dotting the landscape below for as far as the eye can see. And since I wouldn’t want you to miss such a beautiful tableau, I took a photo of one particularly spectacular tree and added it here for your viewing pleasure.
Now, onto the scoop. In case you left before April 19 this year or you haven’t been following the local cultural scene too closely in the off-season, the power players at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts chose that day to announce a monumental decision: They were changing its name effective immediately to Artis—Naples. With an explanation via multimedia presentation from the organization’s CEO Kathleen van Bergen (who had the Board of Director’s full backing), we learned what prompted the switch. In anticipation of the group’s twenty-fifth anniversary season launching in September, the idea is to draw in a younger and more diverse audience and to better represent the full scope of the center’s offerings. From fine art exhibits to award-winning plays to the delightful Kindermusik classes, what originally began in the ’80s as a philharmonic orchestra has become so much more and it was time to have its name reflect that.
I personally have this distinct feeling van Bergen and the board members at the Phil (oops, I meant Artis—Naples) had no idea what a firestorm this would cause. But the firestorm definitely exists, and here it is two months later and it shows no sign of going away any time soon.
When the name change was announced, some residents felt they needed to take action to attempt to save the “Philharmonic for the Arts,” a name which they have known and loved for 25 years. Two of them, Peter Thomas and Craig Lyon, initiated a web page called savethephil.com. The site encouraged those who were against the name Artis—Naples to sign the petition provided in hopes that it would be a show of force and determination in opposing the new moniker—and that the board would take notice and reverse the decision. To date, the names on the petition total upwards of 12,000. Pretty impressive, especially considering this unfolded in the sleepy post-Easter months.
The two sides met face to face in early June, and no one was budging on either side. As far as the pro-Artis board goes, the name change will remain intact. But the Save-the-Phil folks seem to be in opposition mode for the long haul. It will be most interesting to see when and how this controversy ends, and only time will tell what will be in store for the community.
Speaking of the arts and Artis—Naples, Bob and I were watching the Tony Awards last Sunday, and we were treated to an exciting surprise. Bob had intended on watching the NBA Finals, but we both became so enraptured by the entertaining broadcast, we stuck with it for the entire evening. In my mind, the Tony Awards outdid the Oscars AND Emmy Awards many times over. I’m not sure if it was due mostly to Neil Patrick Harris and his fabulous hosting abilities, but anyway, it was a night to remember for sure…
One of the Tonys up for grabs was Best Revival of a Play, and the winner was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? As I watched the actors and producers gather on stage, I saw someone very familiar among them. Our own friend and Naples neighbor, Patty Baker! Patty is such an advocate for live theater locally and nationally, and she and has been involved in many Broadway productions including her huge success as executive producer of the fabulous musical, Memphis. I emailed Patty while I was watching the show just to make certain she was the one I saw and it was, of course. She was so excited (I can only imagine) about that win and also about the four Tonys won by yet another show she helped produce called Matilda. I am sure you all know, but Patty and her husband, Jay, are immersed in the arts scene here in Naples. The fine art museum at Artis—Naples bears their name, Jay is a member of the Artis—Naples board, and both he and Patty have generously supported regional theater groups, including The Naples Players and Gulfshore Playhouse. Seeing Patty’s triumph on TV reminded me of how lucky Naples is to have these “heavy hitters” in the New York theater community in our midst. And no matter what happens with Artis—Naples/the Phil, we have a lot of smile about and be thankful for.