| Fort Myers News-Press
Lee County’s newest arts center just opened at Shell Point Retirement Community, but don’t go looking for tickets yet. It’ll be a while before most people can see art exhibits there or watch concerts in its 400-seat theater.
Blame it on COVID-19.
The two-story, $15 million center opened last week to Shell Point residents only. It won’t open to non-residents until after the pandemic ends, says marketing director Lynn Schneider.
Once that happens, though, Schneider predicts people will love what they see. Shell Point residents have already been taking tours of the place.
“We’re so excited to get this done and open, and the residents are so thrilled,” Schneider says.
Construction started on the 44,000-square-foot Tribby Arts Center in 2018. The building is named after Shell Point resident Maggie Tribby, who kicked off the center’s fundraising campaign in 2017 with a $10 million donation.
Maggie Tribby isn’t doing media interviews, Shell Point leaders say. But visitors can see her likeness outside the center entrance: A bronze statue of Tribby and her poodle, Gracie, on a park bench. It was created by artist Steven Dickey.
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The center features a café, an art gallery, a gift shop, a sculpture garden, a theater with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, practice rooms for musicians and dancers, and artist studios for photography, pottery, quilting, painting, stained glass and more. The studios and practice rooms are only available to Shell Point residents.
Tribby Café is expected to open March 1, and the center’s first big event opens April 1 in the art gallery: An exhibit featuring the work of Shell Point residents.
Concerts could start sometime this spring for Shell Point residents, but nothing has been scheduled yet, says fine and performing arts manager Michael Weiss.
The theater — named Connie Brown Hall — will also show movies and host staged readings by resident drama group The Shell Point Players. And, perhaps later, touring theatrical groups performing plays and musicals, Weiss says.
Once the center opens to the public, people can expect regular art exhibits and touring musical acts playing classical, jazz, pop, country and other genres, Weiss says. “We’re going to have a wide range of programming.”
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Bigger acts will continue to perform at Shell Point’s main venue, The Village Church. Its 1,000-seat auditorium is home to symphony concerts, plays and touring bands.
Shell Point leaders expect the new center to draw many people from outside of Shell Point — although Shell Point residents get first dibs on all tickets. The Village Church already attracts about 40 percent of its audience from outside the retirement community, Schneider says.
For more information on Shell Point and the arts center, call 800-780-1131 or visit shellpoint.org.
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