Jim Griffith is a man of action. He is also the driving force behind The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. As SBDAC’s Chairman and CEO, Griffith is involved in every facet of the visual and performing art center’s operations, from the building’s continuing restoration and preservation to selection and promotion of the world-renowned artists who exhibit their work and perform there.
Griffith grew up in southwest Florida and possesses a fierce love and respect for the people who reside and visit here. Even before the federal judiciary abandoned the building which SBDAC today calls home, Griffith founded Florida Arts, Inc. to strengthen and serve the arts community of his native southwest Florida.
The soft-spoken Juilliard-trained violist for the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra offers a humble explanation for his motivation to develop a world-class visual and performing arts center serving the greater Fort Myers community. “I was involved in a not-for-profit that was running the music and dance center in the Arcade Building,” explains Griffith, referring to the century-old theater in which Thomas Edison enjoyed early motion pictures with his buddies Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. “I was bringing in colleagues from Julliard, but performing in schools and cafeterias because there were no medium-sized venues that could accommodate 300-500 guests. So when the federal courthouse became available, it just said ‘art center’ all over it to me.”
But Juilliard is what gave Griffith the confidence that he could convert the 65-year-old building into a world-class cultural center.
Griffith is a product of Juilliard in every meaningful sense. He not only exhibits the talent, work ethic and determination necessary to graduate a program like that, he is a living, breathing testament to the school’s stated goal of encouraging its graduates to serve as advocates for the arts in society. But Griffith is more than a mere advocate. By taking an active role in shaping the future of the visual and performing arts in southwest Florida through SBDAC, Griffith has become this community’s arts ambassador.
“Living in New York for five years,” Griffith told Gulfshore Life, “I was exposed to extremely diverse and overwhelming arts and culture. Realizing what that does for quality of life, and the educational opportunities that provides to the youth, I saw that need in Fort Myers.”
Fort Myers is taking notice. In 2010, 65,000 people flocked to the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center to partake of its artistic programs.