Centers for the Arts announced Dec. 30 that Susan Bridges, the organization’s president and CEO, has decided to leave the centers effective Jan. 1, 2023.
Bridges has served in her current role since May 1999. She’s been the creative force behind the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs for 23 years. During her tenure as President, she has overseen significant capital campaigns; all management processes; the opening of two campuses—a 10-acre campus for Visual Arts and a 4-acre campus for Performing Arts; growth in membership from 300 to more than 2,000; and building a community enrichment program free to local children and their families that serves more than 12,000 each year. The Centers offer 260+ classes and camps for all ages year-round; a scholarship program for thousands of students in art, music, dance, film, and theatre, creating equal opportunity for all; and a performance series featuring concerts and plays, hosting artists from around the world. She has accomplished all this with one thing in mind, “To know that if there’s any person out there who wants the arts, the arts are here for them. That’s pretty special.”
Bridges has served on the City of Bonita Springs’ Art in Public Places Board since its inception over 20 years ago and helped create the City’s Master Plan for its Art in Public Places program, bringing public art to Bonita Springs. She’s also helped build the Centers’ collection of art, with a collection of sculptures and other artworks on display at their campuses. WGCU chose her as one of their MAKERS: Women Who Make Southwest Florida, including her portrait with other women who’ve made significant and lasting contributions to the Southwest Florida community. And Bridges and her husband Barry Witt created the award-winning Bonita Springs National Art Festivals that bring hundreds of artists from around the world to Bonita Springs each year.
Of her successes, she says “I think you have to learn very early on not to take ‘no’ for an answer.” Patience and perseverance are traits she admires and ones that she believes many women in business possess. “Staff, volunteers, and members at the Centers inspire me every day—they are an outstanding group of people that never cease to amaze me with their loyalty, giving attitude, and abilities to accomplish great things. They’ve made the Centers a tremendous resource in Southwest Florida. Art groups from all over Florida and even out of state contact me asking one question or another— ‘how did you do that or accomplish that project?’ I point to staff and volunteers and say there’s your answer, they’re unbeatable when they decide to accomplish something.”
Additionally, Bridges commented, “I leave the Centers with fond memories of the last 23 years and with relationships with colleagues, co-workers, and members that will continue forever. I also believe I leave an organization well-positioned to meet the opportunities and challenges of continuing the role of an arts leader here in Southwest Florida.”