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Myra Janco Daniels, arts visionary and advertising pioneer, dies Wednesday

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FORT MYERS, Fla. - TelAve -- Myra Janco Daniels, 96, the arts visionary and advertising pioneer who helped transform Southwest Florida into a nationally recognized cultural destination, died early Wednesday morning at home, three days before her 97th birthday.

Daniels was founder and longtime CEO of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts (now Artis-Naples), which since 1989 has brought world-class music, theater, dance, opera, and art to Naples. In 2000, she founded the Naples Museum of Art (now the Baker Museum) on that same campus.

Daniels' vision for the Philharmonic Center was ambitious and unusual – combining world-class performing and visual arts in a single venue. The community strongly supported the concept, and the Phil, as it became known, gave Naples a national arts profile. Then-First Lady Barbara Bush was in attendance on opening night in November 1989. The Wall Street Journal covered the opening.

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While the arts were a lifelong passion for Daniels, her first career was as a groundbreaking advertising executive in Chicago, where she won national Advertising Woman of the Year honors and was among the first women to head a national ad firm.

Daniels served as CEO of the Philharmonic Center from its inception in the 1980s to her retirement in 2011, building the Phil into a $100 million corporation. During that time, the Naples Philharmonic became a nationally recognized orchestra, with a Grammy nomination, CD and appearances on PBS; and the Naples Museum of Art developed an international reputation. The center also helped change people's perception of Naples, which had been known mostly for its beaches and golfing. In 2005, Naples was named the Best Small Art Town in America in a book that singled out the Phil.

More than just an arts venue, the Philharmonic Center also wove the arts into the culture of the community, providing public school programs, adult and children's education classes and workshops, and free concerts throughout Southwest Florida.

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Daniels, who was known to work from early morning until late evening, was in her mid-80s when she stepped down as CEO in 2011. Shortly after her retirement, the street west of Artis-Naples was renamed Myra Janco Daniels Boulevard.

But Daniels never stopped working or being a visionary. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Salvation Army Fran Cohen Youth Center on Airport Road and founded the Latchkey League fund-raising group. She consulted on arts projects at Ave Maria University and FGCU, where the building housing the WGCU TV and radio studios is known as the Myra Janco Daniels Public Media Center. She supported and promoted various other arts ventures in the region.

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