By ED FRANKS
Last Thursday approximately 300 invited guests gathered at the Bealls Department Store at Cypress Trace Shopping Center in Fort Myers to "Meet the Artist" Leoma Lovegrove.
Lovegrove's website describes her as "an impressionist-expressionist painter known worldwide for her colorful artistic depictions of flora and fauna calls Matlacha Island in Southwest Florida her home. It is here that she is inspired within her own waterfront gallery and gardens where she greets thousands of visitors each year."
"One of the most important things we do today is to bring new and interesting products to our stores," Lorna Nagler, president of Bealls, said. "This marriage of Leoma's creativity and our shared passion for Florida is a great partnership and I think we are at the start of something really big. When is comes to Leoma's art there isn't anyone not drawn to her in one shape or form. It really aligns with our passion for color and brings the Florida lifestyle to life."
The showcase was set in the center of the store with Lovegrove's paintings surrounding an elevated stage. At center stage was a large empty canvas with paints waiting for Lovegrove. The event at Bealls began at 3 p.m. with Nagler taking the stage.
"One of the things we work very hard at at Bealls is ways we can continue to surprise and delight our customers," she said. "What are those things that you can only find at Bealls? Well about a year and a half ago I met this force that we call Leoma Lovegrove. And it was our idea to try to find ways to take the local Florida art and find a way to transform it into products."
She continued, "Leoma and Bealls share a very important secret together - we love Florida, we love color, we're passionate about what we do and about a year and a half ago I met Leoma and we began to test a little product in the store. The customer response was overwhelming! From that, for the last year, my creative team have been working very hard to take the color and passion of Leoma's art and transform it into product."
After tossing several brightly colored plastic disks into the audience, Lovegrove began painting on a large blank canvas. The Lovegrove collection at Bealls is named "The Sunshine Collection" after the artist's favorite music and favorite song, "Good Day Sunshine" by The Beatles. Once a few bars of "Good Day Sunshine" began, Lovegrove began painting. In a matter of 5 minutes the canvas was a splash of color depicting her brilliantly colored version of a seahorse.
"I was on a quest for an artist when I was introduced to Leoma," Nagler said. "When I met Leoma, I thought there was some sort of kismet there so we tested a few items last year just to see what the public thought. Well, I can tell you they sold like crazy and flew out of the stores. We spent the last year expanding this collection and here we are today celebrating The Sunshine Collection."
As the event wrapped up, people were lined up at the registers buying shirts, dresses, bags, pillows, towels and even Tervis tumblers of The Sunshine Collection.