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The Fort Myers Beach Art Association and Gallery plans to rebuild following irreparable damage to its building during Hurricane Ian.  

The art association has been part of the community for 71 years as an all-volunteer member-operated, nonprofit art association. Starting out as a chickee hut, the gallery was home to famous artists workshops, classes, indoor painting groups and shows. 

“Our organization is about the members, it’s about the people and it’s about people healing through art and all of us being together, creating friendships through art,” said Star Sherwood, president of the art association. 

The gallery’s roof collapsed during the storm, leaving the rest of the structure buried under it. Rebuilding on the island is a question the art association has been discussing with its rebuilding committee. “It just all depends on cost,” Sherwood said. “We know we’re still going to be the Fort Myers Beach Art Association. But, with that being said, Fort Myers Beach extends off of the island all the way to Summerlin.” 

Regarding costs associated with rebuilding, the art association is still working through insurance, with no concrete estimate yet.

“We’re going to have the building demolished, and we’re going to rebuild,” Sherwood said. “We just don’t know what that is going to look like yet. We do own the property that our building is on, we just have to determine what the rules are going to be as far as rebuilding.” 

Along with the loss of the gallery, some artists lost art displayed from its summer show, which is usually taken down in October. Of all the art hung in the gallery, only one artist’s canvas painting was saved.  

“People that lost some very, very valuable pieces of artwork in the hurricane, there’s really no way for me to describe how they feel,” Sherwood said.  

Each artist values their art in different ways, she said. The association’s revenue comes from selling minis, which are original art on 5-by-7-inch pieces of watercolor paper that sell for $30 apiece.  

“They’re valuable to the artist because we all make them together,” she said. “We gather in a room and we have mini-making days. They’re all 100% donated to the art association, which is how we make our money.” 

Sherwood added minis are valuable in two ways. First, because it’s a healing process for members to gather and create. Second is the feeling of donating original artwork back to people visiting Fort Myers Beach. 

The art association’s 152 members were accounted for after the storm, with some suffering the complete loss of personal property and homes. 

While its rebuilding committee gauges the next steps, other organizations and entities offered space for members to gather and create.  

Fort Myers’ Alliance of the Arts opened one of its art rooms to association members on Thursdays until the end of December. Members will then utilize the Fort Myers First United Congregational Church for its needs.  

The association also started the Phoenix Rebuilding Fund, which will not only be used for a new building but for day-to-day operations and help pay rent on spaces until a permanent location is found. 

“For us, rebuilding at this point is not just about brick and mortar,” Sherwood said. “It’s about moving forward.” 

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