Mission & History

Our Mission is to: "Inspire, Explore, Create and Promote the Visual Arts"

Our vision is to provide everyone, both artists and non-artists, a place to enjoy the arts with opportunities to learn and appreciate all visual art forms.


Henry Lohse Portrait by Helen Van WykIn 1961 a small group of artists organized an outdoor show for Punta Gorda.  An astonishing 3,000 people came.  These artists decided that maybe they were on to something, so they began to organize themselves into the Charlotte County Art Guild, Inc.


They began to have informal meetings, organized more art shows and hold art classes in various locations around town such as banks, schools and small storefronts.  At first members had to be “juried into” the Guild – that is an artist had to have a certain amount of experience and skill to be a member of the Guild.  Membership was later opened to the general public in the 1970’s.


Early in the 1980’s artist Henry Lohse (pictured to the left) led an energetic charge to get a Visual Arts Center built in Charlotte County.  The Guild secured a long-term lease of Punta Gorda City property at the corner of Maud Street and Marion Avenue.  Fred Babcock was the first Patron of the Arts and contributed greatly to the building fund.


The Center was designed to be built in phases as money was raised by the community.  The Guild received two matching capital grants from the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs in 1985 and 1987.  The ground-breaking ceremony occurred in February 1988 and the doors opened in 1989.


The first phase included a large exhibition hall, gift shop, classrooms and a photography darkroom.  In 1992 Phase two added a library, second exhibition gallery and more classrooms.  We soon outgrew our ever-growing and popular Visual Arts Center and decided a Member Gallery was needed.  Thanks to the generosity and hard work of Wayne Goff, the Wayne and Donna Goff Gallery was dedicated in November of 1999.  Today the Goff Gallery showcases a body of art work by member artists that change every month.  Any member artist can get on the calendar to exhibit.  Goff exhibits generally range from 3 to 4 artists with occasional shows by single artists. Goff also hosts the annual members Fine Arts Festival.


The final phase occurred in 2002 when we added another large room that can be divided into two classrooms when needed. Our final addition to date is the Roth Pottery Studio made possible through grants from the Selby Foundation and the Roth Foundation.  The pottery studio is one of our showcases with 10 potters wheels, two kilns and a glazing room.  We are proud to offer classes year around to both members and non-members.



 Have you always dreamed of being an artist? Or maybe you'd like to make some creative friends? Many people view the Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda as a place to be inspired, improve and develop as an artist. Whether you are a lifelong artist, interested in learning a new craft, or want to meet new people, the Visual Art Center on the corner of Maud Street and Marion Ave in Punta Gorda wants to help you!


Our Exhibitions


The Guild began to offer classes in painting and drawing. Exhibits were organized. The first juried art exhibition, Harvest of Art 1988, was held at the First Federal Bank. Our largest gallery is named for First Federal, one of our early large donors. The second Harvest of Art was the first art show held in the new Visual Arts Center. It remains our longest running annual exhibit.


Our exhibit schedule is now varied and on view all year—juried, judged, themed, member only and exhibits open to any artist. We have hosted a Biennial National Art Exhibition since 1998 which attracts hundreds of artists from all over. In 2013, we  held our first National Faces & Figures (of the human form) Exhibit, which promises to become just as big.


Art Classes and Workshops


Summer Art Classes for Children. Throughout the years, classes in more art media were added. The Visual Arts Center's highly accomplished, award-winning instructors for its six-week courses. Weekly portrait, life drawing studios, and plein aire sessions are now mainstay activities. Fine crafts classes in pottery, stained glass and jewelry-making are also popular additions to the curriculum. We also offer Art Technology classes for computer and photography in our Art Tech Lab.  Occasionally, specialty classes are offered in diverse media like basketry or silk-painting. We also provide classes, workshops and summer arts camps for children.


Hurricane Charley presented us with the opportunity to renovate much of the building. A grant from the Selby Foundation completely rebuilt our pottery studio and a Charlotte Community Foundation grant helped open a state-of-the-art technology lab.

Want to Join?

Anyone can, and everyone is welcome to join and enjoy what the Visual Arts Center offers. Membership dues help support the non-profit organization. Membership is not required to take classes, workshops, or enter most exhibits. Current membership is at nearly 1,000. Become a Member