Leoma Lovegrove said she always would be a part of Matlacha. However, the artist who spent the past 25 years there put her studio up for sale, moved to North Fort Myers and is planning a new shop and studio for downtown Fort Myers.
Lovegrove also has been turning trash into treasure, taking shingles Hurricane Ian ripped from her roofs, transforming them into art canvasses and selling them for $395 each.
Lovegrove and her husband of 44 years, Mike Silberg, bought the wood frame, canal-front studio off Pine Island Road in 1998 for $112,000. It’s near the center of the tiny fishing village between Pine Island and Cape Coral. They listed the property, which includes three buildings needing restoration, through Re/Max Sunshine of Matlacha for $2.5 million. Lovegrove said she spent about $70,000 clearing debris.
Lovegrove moved her mobile art studio off the property Tuesday for some refurbishing after it was filled with at least 4 feet of muck from Hurricane Ian on Sept 28. The storm also destroyed her Matlacha home, which she will keep and refurbish.
The storm destroyed an estimated $800,000 worth of prints that were stored in the shop and gallery. She said almost all of her originals were preserved and stored safely off the island.
Lovegrove is hoping to open a new studio in downtown Fort Myers later this year off Dean Street near the City Tavern bar. The timetable for that is uncertain, but she’s hoping to open by the end of April. In the interim, she sells her work on her website. She also sells it at various Southwest Florida art festivals, and she will be the featured artist from Valentine’s Day through Mother’s Day at the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens in Punta Gorda.
“We had such a great season last year, with everybody moving here, and I couldn’t make the art fast enough,” Lovegrove said. And then Ian hit.
“I believe we had a tsunami,” she said, especially at her house, close to the studio. “It blew the hurricane shutters in, and it took everything out to sea.”
Lovegrove, who is from Merrillville, Indiana, about 45 miles southeast of Chicago, said she paints from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. almost every day before the rest of her day begins.
“I need to be painting,” she said.
She decided to paint about 500 shingles from the roof, because she wanted a quick way to recoup some income, and because her fans were clamoring for it. She also has been painting pieces of a ruined picket fence for less than $100 apiece.
“I wanted to be a part of the history, visually with my art,” Lovegrove said. “That’s what the shingles are doing. They’re representing a bit of the Hurricane Ian history. That’s what artists do. I think we record history in a visual way.
“I was walking in the garden after the hurricane. Found some brushes. Found some paint. And, oh darn, I need canvas. And then I picked up a shingle. And I guess, that will work. I dusted it off. It’s perfect. It’s a nice size, and I have lots of them for free.”