"The best advice I ever received was just be who you are."
For the past 13 years, Susan Bridges has been the creative force behind the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs. During her tenure as president, she has overseen a significant capital campaign, the design of new programs, the opening of new buildings (debt-free) on a 10-acre campus and a skyrocketing growth in membership from 300 to nearly 1,700. The Center also now operates over 140 summer camps for kids, most on scholarships, creating equal opportunity for all kids to be creative. She has accomplished all of this with one thing in mind, “To know that if there’s any person out there who wants the arts, regardless of economic ability, the arts are there for them. That’s pretty special.”
Bridges grow up in a blue collar family in Illinois. From the time she was old enough to hold a pencil or crayon in her hand, she was an artist. She attended college and studied business. But her love of art beckoned Bridges to take a different path. So at the age of 32, she gave up a budding business career in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts, and a non-profit business degree. With academic degrees in hand, she and her husband relocated to Southwest Florida.
Of her successes, she says “I think you have to learn very early on not to take ‘no’ for an answer.” Patience and perservance are traits she admires and ones that she believes many women possess. “Women seem to look more holistic at things,” she says, adding, “that’s a valuable trait.”