Published: Feb 03, 2012 6:51 PM EST
Updated: Feb 03, 2012 11:29 PM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Downtown Fort Myers will become an outdoor art gallery this weekend as dozens of artists show off their work at ArtFest Fort Myers 2012.

Organizers are expecting 70,000 visitors over the two-day event, highlighting the thriving art scene in the River District.

"It's transformed in the last decade all over the county," said ArtFest Executive Director Sharon McAllister. "Whether it's The Alliance, whether it's Artwalk downtown, or Sydney and Berne Davis Art Center, or the Florida Rep. Any of us. The difference from a decade ago is enormous."

But when it comes to local art events, ArtFest is the big one.

"A lot of shows are done by promoters around the county," said artist John Scanlan. "They're great, but this is a community event, and from that standpoint they put everything in to it."

Scanlan, a photographer, has presented for the last six years at ArtFest. The event is currently in its 12th year.

"It was good from the get go for me, but it's just continually grown," said Scanlan.

More than 900 artists applied for a shot to show off their work, but just over 200 were selected. Sculptor Royal Miree is excited to be among them.     

"The people who run this are nice," said Miree. They give you plenty of time to set up. And when the people come through, they talk to you. They buy stuff."

Even if you don't have a budget for fine art, there is still plenty to see and enjoy.

"One of the things that makes it different is we have a lot of activity besides just the artists," said McAllister. "We have a big high school show, a great kids area, great food."

There is also be a street chalk art event.

ArtFest runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Parking is available at the garages and lots downtown, but a trolley service will be running to transport guests.

Edwards Dr., as well as its access roads, will be blocked off for the event.